Other People We Married
Author: Emma Straub
Publisher: Five Chapters Books
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Where I got it: Bought it from The Center for Fiction.
How could I not read Emma Straub's book? I love Emma Straub's blog, I love that Emma Straub is a bookseller, and I love that Emma Straub has blurbs from Lorrie Moore and Dan Chaon. Oh, and I love the cover.
Beyond the exterior, however, Emma Straub's is a lovely collection of not-exactly-related short stories. Each takes place in a different location, but all of the protagonists are New Yorkers. I pondered the title of the collection for the first few stories, but later its significance began to reveal itself. Each of the stories in the collection is about relationships, and about the effects that outsiders have on relationships. They are also about our different selves, and the different people we can be and become throughout our relationships. In the end, we all marry other people- in other words, we marry many selves. The title story concerns a couple, on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, who have brought along the wife's gay best friend. In some ways it is the most literal interpretation of the title: the woman's husband has married her past and her friends. However, all the stories touch on the hidden selves, the imagined/fantasy selves, the pasts not shared or not forgotten, and the subtle (or not-so-subtle) changes in all relationships-romantic, familial, or friendly.
My four favorite stories in the collection were: "Some People Must Really Fall in Love," "Rosemary," "Fly-Over State," and "Puttanesca." "Some People" is the story of a young instructor at a university, on the cusp of adulthood, and in lust with the fantasy of one of her students. "Rosemary" is about a woman who hires a pet psychic to find her lost cat, much to her husband's chagrin. In "Fly-Over State," a young wife follows her husband to an academic job and finds herself telling lies and playing roles she never expected, including, but not limited to, "totally weird lady next door." Finally, in "Puttanesca," two people, grieving the loss of their lovers, are introduced by their grief counselor. They take a to a trip to Italy where the past appears around more corners than they would like and where the main character is forced to confront the differences between her new relationship and the old one that never had the chance to run its course.
Straub is a really fresh, promising writer and the whole collection is a delight. She has a wonderful knack for unexpected description and I felt like her characters could easily be people I knew. If you are a fan of short fiction, or want to become one, definitely pick up a copy of this book.