cover image Problems with People

Problems with People

David Guterson. Knopf, $25.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-385-35148-5

People struggle to connect with each other in this succinct but ambitious collection of 10 stories from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars. Some return to Guterson’s customary Pacific Northwestern milieu, but elsewhere he ranges abroad, with settings including Katmandu, Berlin, and South Africa. “Paradise” observes a man and a woman struggling through the awkwardness of their first few dates, while in “Tenant,” a landlord obsesses over a new renter whom he has never met. “Politics” explores the superficial yet fraught relationship between a beggar and those he solicits, and “Krassavitseh” follows a father and son as they navigate Holocaust memorials in Germany with an enigmatic tour guide. Though Guterson’s characters differ in their ages, locations, and worries, all of their stories turn on the thin lines that separate friendship from acquaintance, and the strange from the familiar. While the stories lack depth, they gain resonance from Guterson’s eagerness to remind us of the boundless potential of everyday encounters. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (June)