cover image We Want What We Want: Stories

We Want What We Want: Stories

Alix Ohlin. Knopf, $25.95. (256p) ISBN 978-0-525-65463-6

Ohlin (Dual Citizens) delivers another rich collection full of insights and sticky contradictions. In “The Brooks Brothers Guru,” Amanda is recruited to rescue her long-lost cousin by his girlfriend, from a possible cult in Upstate New York. While there, Amanda, who spends much of her life on various devices, begins to understand the appeal of her cousin’s quiet new life. “The Point of No Return” follows Bridget from her 20s into middle age as she views her life at a distance, seeing herself as “a tiny animal she had happened upon by chance one day and decided to raise.” The strongest stories feature connected characters, such as “The Universal Particular,” told by a Swedish-Somalian orphan, a beard blogger, a gamer, and a massage therapist as each longs to break out of their isolation. Ohlin also does a great job capturing her characters’ perspectives on life. As Bridget in “The Point of No Return” begins to understand, sometimes one’s 20s are a “performance of adulthood,” while Tamar in “The Universal Particular” imagines telling her husband, during a fight, that adulthood requires one “to embody a role and not be able to escape it.” Throughout, Ohlin reveals the depth of her characters with empathy and precision. The strongest stories are more than worth the price of admission. (July)