This collection of short stories is startling in it's ability to capture what life is like in Southeastern Michigan... Especially if you have any fondness for or familiarity with the working class Detroit suburbs or Polish-American culture. I just read "Tomato Watch" and I wasn't able to sleep until I wrote this review. It's not just the ethnic angle, Slezak also captures the - the what? the malaise? the trapped, depressed feeling? - that young people who grow up in Detroit's suburbs often have. In many ways, the thirty year old heroine of "Tomato Watch" is as trapped as her ninety-five year old Polish grandfather... Incredible... I left that world twenty years ago and this book brought it all back... To capture all that in one short story just knocks me out. Her style of writing also has this great subtle sarcasm, this vague sorrow, this fatalistic bitterness that can be seen in works by other Michigan-based or Michigan-influenced writers: Check out...
I think that Slezak's new book is a unique collection of short stories that capture the essence of not-so-every day American life. Throughout the book her characters offered an unresolved glimpse into real-life pain, the struggles had from children to older adults are all based in the very specific setting of the Detroit area, (which reminded me in some ways of "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson). The stories in this book have a unique way of revealing humour, fear, pain, anger through complex situations... and weave in and out of these situations just long enough to allow these characters to enter into our imaginations (and possibly our hearts). I would almost love to read a sequel to see what happens to the boy whose mother left him, and who has to live with an unwelcoming father and stepmother. Or the woman who looks after her senile grandfather, who grows closer to him as he helplessly drifts farther from reality. I think Slezak has true talent and craft as a...
Reading Ellen Slezak's collection of short sotries, I kept thinking how different Detroit was from where I grew up. There's plenty of vivid detail in this solid, unpretentious prose to give a visitor an inside look at a Polish-American working class suburb. Enough to make me feel like I'd been out of town - somewhere I'd never visited before. The feelings evoked, though, were familiar. The characters never behave like stick figures or glossed-over personalities meant to be played by movie or sitcom actors. Their stories are interesting because they inhabit a specific time and place, but they have the sort of problems and insecurities and unlikely ambitions a lot of us have. More than a few have the quirky familiarity of your closest relatives, the ones you neglect until, years later, you recognize them in something you've done and wonder how they are, how they're getting along - because it wasn't obvious at the time, but those were the people you learned from the most. Not...
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