The Island Dwellers

Jen Silverman. Random House, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-399-59149-5
Playwright Silverman debuts with an audacious collection of 11 arresting interconnected short stories. These narratives can stand alone but take on deeper significance together, depicting people living on literal and metaphorical islands of isolation, despite their entanglements with each other. In “Girl Canadian Shipwreck,” New Yorker Macey tells a story of being shipwrecked on an island where she finds a set of islanders and a young woman who begs Macey and her fellow travelers to take her away with them once their ship is fixed. They leave her, and Macey callously says that one shouldn’t go to an island if one doesn’t want to be on an island, an eerie proclamation that could be made about any of the lonely cast populating these pages. In “Maria of the Grapes,” Maria pines for her friend Ancash in Tokyo, who prefers men; in “Mamushi,” Ancash tells the story of an abusive relationship he shared at 17 with an older man. Risa thinks Japan is the safest place in the world, but her involvement with a powerful man leads to her disappearance (“The Safest Place in the World”). Silverman creates a harsh, seductive world that is both more and less than it seems, showing how deeply people will deceive themselves to believe they’ve found connection. Silverman’s winning stories are varied and always engrossing. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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