Publication Date: June 21, 2016 (original publication date: 1996).
PUBLISHER: OPEN ROAD MEDIA
Reading a single author’s collection of short stories can sometimes be a gamble if you’re unfamiliar with their work and I initially felt that I had lost the bet with Roxana Robinson’s Asking for Love, re-released this past week (June 21). The first six or so stories seemed to have a common theme of betrayal with typically the protagonist doing the betraying. I find betrayal one act that is extremely unforgivable so I could feel disagreeability building inside of me.Throw in the fact that the characters represent a minority with which I am personally unfamiliar (the extremely wealthy country club set whose idea of parenting is nannies and boarding school) and I found it a struggle to continue reading.
However, (you knew there was a “however,” didn’t you?) once I started reading the title story, “Asking For Love,” the clichéd tide changed. The next story was “Mr. Sumarsono,” which deservedly appeared in The Best American Short Stories of 1994, and this story was a revelation to me compared to the previous ones. The single mother and her two daughters, who bring an Indonesian UN diplomat into their home for the weekend, don’t seem to be of the country club ilk; they’re likable, although the eldest daughter and narrator, Susan, begins unreasonably. Susan achieves a transformation in this story that I found far more profound than any of the character realizations in the stories that had preceded it.
“Looking at it gave me the same feeling that the stopped escalator did: a sense of dislocation, a sudden uncertainty about my own beliefs. In the photograph my mother leans back against her chair like a queen, all her power evident, and at rest. Her face is turned slightly away: she is guarding her privacy.” Mr. Sumarsono
As a short story lover, I was now in my element.
“Breaking the Rules” is a story that could have easily been written this week. The theme is the alienation of a grown child and parent with a societal discussion that is as pertinent today as it was twenty-odd years ago.
And the last story, “King of the Sky” seems to pursue an innocuous enough path, one you witness everyday, in which a child tests the authority of the parent. The outcome punches you in the stomach.
As I am writing this, the thought occurs to me that my reaction to the first few stories might have allowed this to be thrown into a DNF pile, but, as you know if you’ve read my previous reviews, I really dislike not finishing a book and this is just more evidence as to why. If I hadn’t continued, I would never have read some of the remarkable stories that make up Asking for Love. Also, the quality of those stories is the reason why I have rated the book as I have.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From Amazon: Asking for Love