We Show What We Have Learned

Clare Beams. Lookout, $17.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-940596-14-3
The captivating stories in Beams’s debut collection are impressively varied in both setting and character. In “Hourglass,” a young girl attends a strange, possibly sinister boarding school to receive a “transformational education” and ends up learning about the true meaning—and cost—of beauty. “World’s End,” the collection’s tour de force, follows the journey of a young architect in his effort to prove himself in his profession by taking on a project that might be beyond his means, but which ultimately changes him forever. A young woman fresh off a breakup takes her ailing grandmother on a trip in “Granna,” mostly to prove to her ex that she is capable of being a selfless person. The story’s conclusion is a dazzling exploration of the emotional costs of true empathy. Several stories explore the pain of unrequited love, such as “The Saltwater Cure,” in which a teenage boy working at an inn becomes infatuated with one of the guests and subsequently learns hard lessons about accepting one’s lot in life, and “The Renaissance Person Tournament,” a nuanced portrait of a teacher whose lessons for her young pupil in the titular tournament are more complicated than they seem. Beams is an expert at providing odd and surprising details that make her stories come alive, and the result is a powerful collection about what we need from others and, in turn, what we can offer others of ourselves. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/08/2016
Release date: 10/01/2016
Ebook - 978-1-940596-15-0
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