I KNEW YOU’D BE LOVELY by Alethea Black

Book Quote:

“Best of all, it made him feel as if the unspoken in him were connecting with the unspoken in her, and it crosses his mind that this was all chemistry ever was; two people’s silent selves invisibly aligning while their noisy selves carried on, oblivious.”

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman  (JUL 8, 2011)

Every now and then, a debut short story collection appears that makes me sit up and take notice – Interpreter of Maladies, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, and You Are Not A Stranger Here, to name three. Alethea Black has taken her place as a short story writer who shows amazing promise.

Some of the stories in I Knew You’d Be Lovely are very good and others are excellent. There are none that are bad. She writes like a dream, summing up the unpredictable human condition with insight and perceptive and more often than not, a subtle sense of humor.

It took me two-thirds of the way until I had that “eureka” moment: “Aha, this is a book about beginnings.” Take her story “That Of Which We Cannot Speak,” for example. Bradley, a man who is struggling to find his way back to center after his marriage implodes, meets an attractive doctor with laryngitis at a noisy party. They communicate with a clipboard and, in an unspoken way, find a connection.

Or take the story “The Only Way Out Is Through.” An accidental father takes his very emotionally disturbed son on a camping trip. An act of impending horror is the catalyst for him to reveal the magical time of the son’s birth, ending with, “Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you get it.”

Or, one of my favorites, “Good In A Crisis.” Ginny, an aloof teacher, is resolved to avoid marriage at all costs, supporting her aversion with specific examples: a good friend’s husband taped The X-Files over their wedding videos. Eventually, she finds her way to her first crush, her older and still attractive and single high school teacher. The story of their meeting is real and poignant and fresh as Ginny starts “climbing the stairs – very slowly, like a woman sleepwalking, incapable of imaging the dream that awaits her when she wakes up.”

The title story “I Knew You’d Be Lovely,” focuses on Hannah, a woman who is searching for the perfect gift for Tom, one that is “prescient, ingenious, unique, unforgettable.” I won’t spoil the fun in revealing what that “gift” turns out to be.

At the end of the book, Alethea Black writes, “I love it when authors share the backstories to stories and snippets about their creative process.” And she proceeds to do just that, letting the reader know what inspired her to write each story.

Except one.

That story closes the collection and it’s called “Someday is Today,” a highly personal and poignant story about the death of her young brother-in-law and a potentially life-altering decision that her sister requests of her. It is a beautifully-written and in its own way, it, too, is about new beginnings.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 51 readers
PUBLISHER: Broadway; Original edition (July 5, 2011)
REVIEWER: Jill I. Shtulman
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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July 8, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Posted in: Short Stories

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