Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro

From Goodreads:
The hypnotically intimate, urgent stories in I Want to Show You More are about lives stretched between spirituality and sexuality in the New American South. In narrative modes ranging from the traditional to the fabulist, these stories are interconnected explorations of God, illicit sex, raising children—and running. Jamie Quatro’s stories confront us with dark theological complexities, fractured marriages, and mercurial temptations: a wife comes home with her husband to find her lover’s corpse in their bed; a teenager attends a Bible Camp where he seduces a young cancer survivor with hopes of curing his own rare condition; marathon runners on a Civil War battlefield must carry phallic statues and are punished if they choose to unload their burdens; a girl’s embarrassment over attending a pool party with her quadriplegic mother turns to fierce devotion under the pitying gaze of other guests; and a husband asks his wife to show him how she would make love to another man.

I Want to Show You More unleashes Quatro’s exhilarating talent for exposing the quiet terrors of modern life with stunning and subversive energy.
It's complete serendipity that I stumbled across this work.  I actually purchased it for my brother as a Christmas gift just because I had seen it mentioned on Book Riot and it was the only book I recognized from his list (IE: the only non-poetry book).  When it came I was thrilled to find that not only was it signed (thanks Amazon!) but also set where I live.  It ranges from my tiny Southern town to my parents' tiny Southern town to the big city of Chattanooga, but almost every single story is set in a locale I not only recognize but frequent on a regular basis.  So in the few days before I gave him the gift, I frantically read it myself and I'm so glad that I did.

The writing is just gorgeous.  If I had to compare it to another author, I'd say a very feminine George Saunders.  And by feminine, I don't mean that it's intended for women, I just mean that it's focused on relationships and the home, as opposed to the cultural commentary of Saunders.  I particularly thought the connected stories chronicling the end of a marriage were beautifully done.  My favorite by far was the story of a woman who is forced to share her bed with her husband - and the decomposing body of her lover.  It's just gorgeous writing, and the setting has been captured so perfectly it's obvious that Quatro is a local.

Entertainment Value
Again, a huge part of my love for this collection is the fact that the author has captured the setting and the gorgeous Lookout Valley area so perfectly.  In addition to having the setting down pat, Quatro also captures what I think is the essence of the South and Southern literature with her allusions to religious and sexual complexities and complicated family relationships.  I absolutely devoured it, but it left me wanting and needing a second read to really grasp all the complexities of the book.  I can't wait to get a copy on my own shelf and to reread it slowly and closely.

I can't recommend this collection more highly, particularly to fans of Southern literature, family dynamics, or short stories.  And if you live in or are familiar with the area, even more reason to grab a copy.

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