In subtle, sensuous prose, the stories in Sara Majka's debut collection explore distance in all its forms: the emotional spaces that open up between family members, friends, and lovers; the gaps that emerge between who we were and who we are; the gulf between our private and public selves.Read more...
In subtle, sensuous prose, the stories in Sara Majka's debut collection explore distance in all its forms: the emotional spaces that open up between family members, friends, and lovers; the gaps that emerge between who we were and who we are; the gulf between our private and public selves. At the center of the collection is a series of stories narrated by a young American woman in the wake of a divorce; wry and shy but never less than open to the world, she recalls the places and people she has been close to, the dreams she has pursued and those she has left unfulfilled. Interspersed with these intimate first-person stories are stand-alone pieces where the tight focus on the narrator's life gives way to closely observed accounts of the lives of others. A book about belonging, and how much of yourself to give up in the pursuit of that, Cities I've Never Lived In offers stories that reveal, with great sadness and great humor, the ways we are most of all citizens of the places where we cannot be.
Cities I've Never Lived In is the second book in Graywolf's collaboration with the literary magazine A Public Space.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-11-09
- Reviewer: Staff
The stories in Majkas debut collection are linked in two ways: many feature the same first-person narrator, a youngish woman whose marriage has broken up, but even those that dont have a common mooda loneliness and yearning for something that will likely not occur. In the title story, the narrator travels from city to city going to soup kitchensshes not hungry for food, but for a connection, a way to be open to the people she meets there. Its not a plan with a measurable success or failurewhen it ends, shes still looking for an answer to the loneliness. In Four Hills, she meets an appealing man, and when she sees that hes married, she feels the calm settling of disappointment as it joined the tide of all the other disappointments. The stories that arent about this character seem to be told by her. These are set mainly in Maine, sometimes in Portland, and sometimes on islands; they feature people who are figuratively and literally getting cut off. In Strangers, an island loses its only grocery store; in Saint Andrews Hotel, a touching foray into a less realistic mode, the islanders lose their ability to reach the mainland. Though the stories seem to blend together, this seems a deliberate choice, and the result is a human and eloquent exploration of isolation. (Feb.)