23 December 2013
The Isle of Youth: Stories
Laura van den Berg’s gorgeous new book, The Isle of Youth, explores the lives of women mired in secrecy and deception. From a newlywed caught in an inscrutable marriage, to private eyes working a baffling case in South Florida, to a teenager who assists her magician mother and steals from the audience, the characters in these bewitching stories are at once vulnerable and dangerous, bighearted and ruthless, and they will do what it takes to survive.
Each tale is spun with elegant urgency, and the reader grows attached to the marginalized young women in these stories—women grappling with the choices they’ve made and searching for the clues to unlock their inner worlds. This is the work of a fearless writer whose stories feel both magical and mystical, earning her the title of “sorceress” from her readers. Be prepared to fall under her spell.
I don't know why Laura van den Berg hasn't shown up on my radar before except for the rather glaring reason that I had stopped reading short story collections (one of her previous collections was a Discover pick - oops). But she just started appearing everywhere I looked on the literary web so I really didn't have an excuse not to pick up a copy of The Isle of Youth.
A lovely, haunting collection comprised largely of female protagonists who feel largely out of sync or out of place in their current role. A newlywed whose plane crashes on the way to her honeymoon must deal with resurfaced doubts about marriage. A young woman must care for her little brother while on the run from the cops - and her crazy, prepper father. Another tries to piece together some part of her brother's life in Antarctica after he dies and yet another goes AWOL with French acrobats as her marriage implodes. Van den Berg has such precise writing; perhaps not as scalpel-like as Alice Munro but very pared down.