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Book review: Forgetting English by Midge Raymond
Date of Review: 
Apr.09.2009
Published Work: 
Reviewer: 
Danielle Dreger-Babbitt
Source: 
Seattle Books Examiner

Midge Raymond's collection of short stories in Forgetting English reads like a travelogue or private diary. Nearly all of the stories take place outside of the United States (though a couple do take place in Maui). Raymond's stories take the reader to exotic places like the Kingdom of Tonga (I totally had to look that up. It is in the South Pacific in case you were wondering), Antarctica, Taipei, Tokyo, and Tanzania. Infidelity is a common theme in many of her stories like "The Road to Hana," "Rest of World," "First Sunday," and "Beyond the Kopjes." Despite the loss of love, the stories are still full of hope. Raymond's characters treat it as a minor inconvenience like a missed flight.

"First Sunday" is probably my favorite of all of the stories (though "Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean" is a close second, probably because I was just in Wailea). Melanie comes to Tonga to see her older sister and recover from her recent termination. While on the island she begins an affair with a young islander named Sione who is engaged to a woman in the village. What I liked most about "First Sunday" was not my immersion into Tongan culture but how her prose starts with a bang. It is the first story in the collection and begins,

He lives in his mother's house, with no electricity or hot water, yet somehow he always has a ready supply of condoms.

How can you not be hooked with an opening line like that? All you can do is hope that this story and the rest of the collection is on par, which it is. All of her stories are heartbreakingly honest.

Book review: Forgetting English by Midge Raymond