Swimming With Strangers
Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum
Chronicle Books: 226 pp., $22.95
I am always extolling the virtues of writing (especially fiction) with the benefit of a few decades of experience under one's belt. But every so often a young writer comes along and reminds me of what the world looks like before all those layers of experience are piled on. Lunstrum, 29, has written eight stories in this collection that shine with a melancholy clarity. In many of them, the dulling effect of life's routines has worn her characters down to the nub. All meaning their lives might have had is now contained in restrained and familiar gestures and in the objects they live with: a "rumpled newspaper" says more about Loren as he tries to make a fire in the cabin he and his dying wife have rented than he could ever say about himself; the simple "tiny pitcher meant for cream," conveys all the meanness and frustration of Alma's lonely life. The writing's plainness allows the reader great freedom to play and wander and invent (not to mention worry and project).
Reynolds is a Times staff writer.