The Isle Of Youth
If New York Magazine's Kathryn Schultz says it's good, well then, paying attention is a must. When she says it is her "current favorite short-story-writer-too-few-people-have-heard-of," well then, you order it immediately, stop what you're doing, and indulge all the way through. So it is with Laura van den Berg's second book, "The Isle of Youth."
This collection of stories has come at a time when the world seems to be hunting furiously for a simple life, uncomplicated and just downright simple. Blame it on the foraging, searching for homemade food and clothing movement, or the handcraft and authenticity trend in everything else. Or blame it on the recovery of the economic situation in the US, or the death of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest heroes that Africa, and the world, has ever seen. The zeitgeist is that this is a time for understanding who we really are. Laura van den Berg brings that to the Christmas table for everyone to feast on, a smorgasbord of delight and earnestness staring down the tunnel of reality.
The collection centers around a bunch of women, each story presenting us a new woman (typically youthful) who is facing herself and her world, but every time in new circumstances. The women all have something in common: They are looking, hunting, furiously searching for that certain something. Some are on this mission for love, others endure the mission for loving. A kind of Nancy Drew detective expedition to solve the mysteries or strangeness of life and love is what occurs -- each time with deep-rooted consequences for the character yes, but mostly for the reader.
Van den Berg rocks and spins with her prose -- she manages to make each story feel urgent and immediate. Never once does she stop for air, but it somehow isn't necessary as she heaves you with her through the book; story by story, moment by moment, it somehow allows you to breathe with no air. The only problem is, you'll devour it all in one go and want more, left only with a bunch of lingering questions about what love, and self love, can muster up.
"The Isle of Youth"
Laura van den Berg
Farrar & Strauss