“Small Odysseys” Book Review

I had never heard of the radio program and live show, “Selected Shorts,” before it was requested that I review this book. But now I’m incredibly intrigued by its concept. Conceived 35 years ago, the series is all about bringing short stories to life either on the radio or on the stage. This collection of 35 different authors brings some of the magic of the program to the page for the first time.

Short stories are one of my favorite genres so I was excited to read this collection, and then I was completely floored when I saw some of the huge names with stories in this book. Everyone from Elizabeth Strout and Dave Eggers to Lauren Groff and Edwidge Danticat are featured. And then there’s one of my all-time favorite authors, Aimee Bender, which catapulted it into not only a must-read but a must-treasure for me. The stories range in genre and tone but are all immensely readable and thought-provoking. Pretty much all of the entries do what great short stories should do – draw you in and wish they were 100 pages longer. On that note, I thought the length for each of these stories was also nearly perfect – just enough character development to intrigue but allowing the flow of the entire collection to be seamless.

The best part was that each author included a short paragraph about their inspiration for their story. I loved getting to hear what sparked the idea for each piece, especially because so many of the stories were incredibly timely (such as the ones who grew from the COVID-19 lockdown). Getting insight straight from the writer’s brain is invaluable and added an extra layer of depth and understanding to each story.

There were only a handful of stories that didn’t work for me. They tended to verge on too-quirky or gimmicky. But overall, I was completely impressed with what editor Hannah Tinti was able to accomplish with this collection. I can’t wait to dig into the catalogs of these writers now!

4.5 stars

*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review*

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