This is a book I received from the Library Thing Member Giveaway program in return for a review.
Sunrises and Other Stories by Paul Marriner is an amazing artistically crafted piece of literature. It is a series of stories, some short, some long; almost all of them could stand alone as complete short stories. They wouldn’t be as interesting as they are in this complete collection which can serve as a definition of the word segue. (Completely Off Point (COF), “segue” is actually used as a word once in this collection of 35 stories.)
Christine and Anthony rule the stories. There are stories about Anthony before meeting Christine. First, there was Trudy, a being whose existence was centered on sex. Anthony could not possibly keep up with her; a long-term relationship was out of the question. She appeared and reappeared at various points in his life, but she was not for him and never could be. Anthony was lucky. Then there was Leslie, she will appear throughout his life, right through to the end of the book. But it is when Anthony meets Christine that the novel’s center is created.
They marry and have kids. They are completely happy, displayed through some very snappy dialogue, until they lose Abigail, their daughter. Then there is a new ruling dynamic to the novel. How does everyone in the family cope with this loss? The characters fade into the background as the novel deals with the profoundness of loss.
Both Christine and Anthony hold a lot of their emotions in. They begin to unravel as other supporting characters appear with their own problems of different kinds of losses. Is Christine having an affair with Tony, her boss, as she deals with loss? Anthony seems to be going through a mid-life crisis as he becomes disaffected with his job and increasingly unhappy with his boss, Tony, who is having an affair with Janine, a secretary Anthony is responsible for. Tony asks for Anthony’s help in covering up the affair.
Anthony likes cars. Oh no, this is the cliché about mid-life crises. Nicky is a car dealer and owner of an agency. She is not very subtle in suggesting they have coffee with a lot of benefits to follow. She never states her marital relationship; the situation is presented as lust only until we find out that she is dealing with the loss of a husband. The reader finds out before Anthony does. An intriguing conflict well played out, the reader will have to get to the end of the book to truly find out what happens. There is a false ending to the conflict; the reader should keep reading.
There is a story, continuing through several chapters about Down’s Syndrome. This is one of the most hopeful and accepting stories I have ever read on the subject. There is a story about a priest’s loss of faith. Could they possibly be connected? That’s why we read the book.
A reviewer could write a lot of spoilers. There are so many startling developments throughout the book but, and I like this part, they ae credible. There are no “a-ha” moments where a character trips over a rock and becomes one with the Buddha or discovers the meaning of life. Almost all situations are plausible to me, although I admit I have never been enough of a criminal to judge the viability of many actions by the “artful dodger”, a term I will use to describe a con man who appears in many places in the latter part of the novel and is a person with many names. That person, a male, is also a professional gigolo; my experiences are also limited in that professional pursuit, so I cannot judge the “reality’ of some of the methods employed.
The beauty of the writing in this novel is the way Marriner leaves hints at what is to happen and then hits the reader with a surprise. Another fun thing is the expectation of how the story currently read can possibly tie in with what was presented before. Marriner does this very well.
And then there are the cutaways to social situations seeming to not have much connection to the story. But they do; it is the reader’s task to discover the connections. In these what I call “cutaways” Marriner makes observations that are so tightly packed with meaning it is a wonder a paragraph can hold them. Here is only one of many examples. Marriner is writing about the life of a beggar on the street.
It is the utter desolation in their soul, fueled by the horror in the eyes of those who might give, and the grief for their own living death that causes most pain. (loc 4720-4721).
This is a wonderful set of stories that will elicit empathetic reactions of extreme sadness from all but the most jaded readers. I follow this writer on my favorite author pages and hope to read more from him.