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Problems with People: Stories by David…

Problems with People: Stories

by David Guterson

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Problems with People by David Guterson is a highly recommended collection of 10 short stories that showcase introspective people struggling to connect with each other. Almost all of the characters are isolated in some way, physically or emotionally. They all seem to distance themselves from human interaction or misinterpret social clues, creating drama where there is none.

Most of the characters in Guterson's stories don't even have names, which enhances the sense of isolation and solitude that surrounds them. Each story is a small picture of a character that is being developed subtly, gently, by an author with an understanding of human nature and its nuances.

This is a well written collection that should resonate with those who enjoy thoughtful short stories that focus on character development and the frailties of human nature.
Paradise - a couple in their sixties who met through an online dating service are starting a new relationship
Tenant - a landlord struggles over his questions about his new tenant
Pilanesberg - an adult brother visits his dying sister in Africa
Politics - a man admires a beggar tenacity at first and then has enough of him
Feedback - a woman obsesses over Hamish McAdam's name and its seemingly incongruous ethnicities
Hot Springs - a judge who ignores being Jewish is reminded of his heritage
Krassavitseh - a father and son tour Holocaust memorials in Germany
Shadow - the retired narrator has developed short-term memory loss which negatively impacts his life
Photograph - a couple grieve over their grown son's drowning death, while the wife blames her husband
Hush - a friendship develops between a dog walker and her gravely ill customer

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
I was torn between giving this 3 stars or giving it 4. Some stories were 3s, one was a 5, a couple were 2s. Overall, a solid book. It definitely touched me. ( )
  DanielleMD | Jun 20, 2015 |
The problems with the people in this Problems with People book of short stories is that the people were neither interesting nor likable. The writing was sometimes pretentious, and even though my advance reader's copy is only 163 pages long, I couldn't wait to be finished with it.

I loved the author's Snow Falling on Cedars when I read it several years ago, Since then, his writing has been mixed for me.

In the first story, the author disdains quotation marks, perhaps to make the piece seem more literary, but it only makes it harder to read. Quotation marks were used in the second story, but dialogue turned into a long, rambling monologue about an uninteresting person. And changes of paragraph were scarce. Perhaps that will change in the finished edition, but to me it seemed more a stylistic choice than something final editing will change.

For me, the best story was Krassavitseh, about a bitter old man returning to Germany for a visit.

There was some intertwining of the stories, but not enough to get to know the characters and care about them.

The very short book is a quick one to read, but at the end, I didn't have that satisfied, “Ah, I'm glad I read that” feeling.

I was given an advance reader's copy for review. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Aug 21, 2014 |
This collection focuses on people, of all ages but all are socially awkward or just getting back into the dating scene. The characters are introspective not sure of what they are doing, questioning their own behaviors and not sure how to approach. things, situations or other people.

The first story Paradise is about two people who have met on-line and are trying to forge a relationship, get back in the game so to speak. Viagra is even involved, the new and improved way to meet people and have sexual relations, I guess.

I was a little disappointed in these stories, I felt that on a whole they were well written but lacked depth. None really stood out for me and I doubt I will remember any with any detail. That said, Guterson is a good writer, these stories are good, but for me I just expected a little more.

ARC from publisher. ( )
1 vote Beamis12 | May 29, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385351488, Hardcover)

The best-selling author of Snow Falling on Cedars returns to his Pacific Northwest settings-and moves beyond them-in ten sharply observed, funny, and wise new stories that explore the mysteries of love, and unravel our complex desires to connect with others.

Ranging from teenage to middle-age, the voices that inhabit Problems with People offer humorous or searing but always tightly focused accounts of the universal quest to understand one another-individually, and as part of our political and historical moment. Their stories are sometimes shot through with tragedy-the long-ago loss of a young boyfriend, a son's death at sea-while in others, the mere circumstances of our cultures and selves-whether it is being Jewish; overweight and single; a tourist in a history-haunted land; or on the brink of a diminished old age-prompt questions about our sense of reality and belonging. Spanning diverse geographies-across America and in distant countries including Nepal, South Africa, and Germany-these stories showcase Guterson's signature gifts for characterization, psychological nuance, emotional suspense, and evocation of the natural world. They celebrate the small, unexpectedly brightening surprises that lurk within the dramas of our daily lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:24 -0400)

A collection of stories is set in the Pacific Northwest and explores themes of love and the human drive to connect with others.

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