Two short story collections in one month? Who am I?!?!
Short story collections are underrated. The tight writing and one-sitting reads make them perfect to get out of reading slumps and to serve as palate cleansers. I really should add more to my TBR. Catapult sent me Sindya Bhanoo’s collection, Seeking Fortune Elsewhere (2022), and it was exactly what I needed to end the month on a high note.
The eight story collection opens with “Malliga Homes,” a story about a senior living community in Coimbatore, India. The narrator, a widow whose daughter lives in the US, wears a mask of contentedness that slips just a tad when she watches one of the resident’s die. She remembers how it used to be – how children cared for their parents when the time came, how families cared for each other. But the younger generation has left India, for bigger and better – America, Australia, Europe – seeking their fortune elsewhere, leaving their parents alone. She is alone.
The hollowness and feigned happiness echo through the rest of the collection; many of the characters are kissed with a bit of unease and regret as they realize the grass isn’t always greener, and the fortunes are sometimes just cheap trinkets.
I found “Nature Exchange” the most exquisitely painful of the collection as it deals with the loss of a young child and the different ways we process our grief. “Amma” and “Buddymoon” were also favorites. The first dealt with a bullied child who becomes a famous actress and then political figure – the story is told from the POV of one of the classmates who struggles with guilt. “Buddymoon” focuses on a woman who’d given her husband custody following their divorce; the story is set at her daughter’s wedding.
The stories are delicate, the emotions coaxed to just below the surface. They’re fragile reads, easily bruised if care is not taken, but they are powerful.
Read this book.