Sunday, June 15, 2014

Stories of Women by an Emerson Alumna: A Book Review

I can't believe I haven't written about this collection of short stories yet! I really enjoyed it and I read it while we were living in Boston. The collection is called The Isle of Youth and it was written by Laura Van Den Berg who graduated from Emerson College with an MFA in creative writing!

I met Van Den Berg at the Emerson Graduate Accepted Student Event back in early April. She was there to represent alumni and to give possible future students a taste of what could be with an Emerson education. Let me tell you, it was a smart move on Emerson's part to invite Van Den Berg to the event. I had been feeling a little iffy regarding grad school, and every so often I would wonder if grad school was the best next step for me. Meeting Laura Van Den Berg, sitting in on her reading, and hearing about her success since graduating just about made up my mind and whenever I start to doubt my decision, I think of Van Den Berg.

The Isle of Youth is her second collection of short stories and was published in 2013 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Her first collection, What The World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, was published in 2009 and I have yet to read it but would really like to! Her first novel, Find Me, will be published in February 2015.

Anyway, to the book review! The Isle of Youth contains stories about women that are dealing with similar issues. Deception is the common thread that holds the stories together. While some of the stories can be repetitive, I didn't care because the prose was so good! The characters were interesting and so different from the norm that it's almost like they are from another world, and I think that may be intentional. The stories are far fetched, the narratives of the characters' lives aren't always probable but Van Den Berg's writing makes the stories credible and real.

Each story has a strong and crazy catch. There's a honeymoon that starts with an plane crash, a magician's assistant deals with mama drama, two sisters try their hands as private detectives, a group of young cousins pull off bank heists, a sister searches for answers about her brother's death in Antarctica, and, in the title story, twin sisters dangerously swap lives.

I highly recommend this book because the stories are intriguing, different, and easy to read. Even AJ read one of the stories, Acrobats, aloud to me following Van Den Berg's reading! And if you don't take my word for it, The Isle of Youth was just shortlisted for the Frank O' Connor Prize.

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