In the quiet and wonderful Molly Antopol's first story collection, "The UnAmericans" an exploration of what it means to be American is undertaken with true finesse and poise. Heralded in early days of release as "a book that will bring back the short story" the characters are ever so familiar and inescapable.
In the Sunday Book Review it was so eloquently stated that in this book "catastrophes come in several varieties -- there are accidents of fate, accidents of history and accidents of technology". And so Antopol fine combs these with a bright and sparkly voice. She questions the disasters that we set ourselves up for, whether intentionally or just unconsciously -- we are after all just human. She also questions what it means to be American, right now and how the past had somehow informed the way we will be American in the future, whether we notice it at all. American, a construct, is an identity we carried so heavily with the Bush era and now bravely wave again as Hillary Clinton saved the American identity from total embarrassment.
Antopol explores the lives of immigrants, of common Yiddish vs. horrid Nazi views in an American milieu, she goes into political intrigue and neighborhoods that could very well be yours or mine. She writes with that modern fearlessness that short stories so often can lug without the guilt. And she succeeds to bring a strong intellect to simple writing -- no wonder she was honored as National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 and teaches at Stanford.
What makes this book filled with stories that irritate, shake, thrill and dance is that she expresses that deep and sincere sense of loss that comes with life -- a great disappointment that we as fools would like to ignore. But she maintains a belief in hope and in happiness. She manages to, even though it hurts like a deep wound inside, show that characters are inevitably filled with a sense that happiness or whatever that means is available and for the taking even when it seems hard to even think about.
W. W. Norton & Company