cover image The Sadness of Beautiful Things

The Sadness of Beautiful Things

Simon Van Booy. Penguin, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-14-313304-9

Van Booy’s latest (after 2017’s Father’s Day) is a thoroughly satisfying story collection inspired by personal anecdotes the author has heard from strangers. The sometimes otherworldly tales showcase misery tinged with a silver lining of hope. In “Playing with Dolls,” a couple whose daughter died in an accident brings home a robot replica of her. In “The Green Blanket,” an elderly man with melancholia is successfully treated by a doctor who prescribes magical eyewear. In “The Doorman,” a world-famous musician and a blind pianist are connected through the pianist’s recently deceased doorman. Van Booy also explores how encounters with strangers can haunt someone’s life: in “The Hitchhiker,” a man on his way to Scotland for a job makes a connection with the woman who gives him a ride but fails to act on it, and in “The Saddest Case of True Love,” a man receives news of a death from a woman who once showed him around Florence. Van Booy sometimes takes a maudlin turn, as in “The Pigeon,” an unconvincing story about a boxer who chooses to take the man who mugged him under his wing. But Van Booy succeeds more often than he falters, making this a vivid collection. Fans of heartfelt stories with a hint of science fiction will find much to enjoy. (Oct.)