This linked short story collection is the kind of book that gives me hope for the future. Subtle, slim, quiet, and about interpersonal relationships, incremental inner growth, and not much more, it is exactly the kind of book I like and the kind of book I would love to see proliferate. The title–Remember How I Told You I Love You?–has shades of Maile Meloy to it, no? That can’t be a bad thing!
The first story starts like this:
Karen meets her in the fall of freshman year. She has another roommate at the time, a scowling brunette named Julie, assigned by the college. That relationship isn’t going well. Julie brings home cups of macaroni and ketchup from the dining hall and leaves them on the windowsill in the room. Karen throws away the cups because Julie doesn’t, and she keeps finding noodles on the floor.
If you know me, and know me well enough to know anything about my freshman year of college, you will know why this resonates. Suffice it to say that I experienced this phenomenon but tenfold, involving baked potatoes, literal spilled milk, and OE forties. One of my dearest friends in the whole world, on the other hand, is the roommate that wasn’t bringing home a baked potato every day and hiding it somewhere in the room–I still talk to her nearly daily FIFTEEN YEARS after we first met. So I truly appreciate a book that delves into, and places so much importance on, the friendships women form in college.
The two women at the heart of that first story weave through the rest of the book, as do characters that are peripheral to that first one, some of them emerging as the protagonists of other stories. The style that carries through all the stories is spare, economical and unsentimental. Even when characters are dealing with loss or behaving badly, the prose is clear and consistent.
I had some serious reading disappointments in 2013, but I’m on a role in 2014–I’ve really loved everything I’ve read so far! Let’s hope the streak continues.