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If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This:…
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If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This: Stories

by Robin Black

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If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black is a debut collection of ten short stories. The central theme is transition and coping.

The titular story is a prime example of how these stories unfold. Each scene begins with the phrase, "If I loved you, I would tell you this—" as she silently rants about her neighbor. He, unaware of her health problems or her son's problems, builds a tall fence around his property. The fence limits the space in her drive way, making it more difficult to get to her home. That apparently small inconvenience spirals out to many more problems and more bottled up anger.

The simplest solution — one not tried by the main character — would be to talk politely with the neighbor. She, though, is the silent martyr type. She keeps quiet to keep the drama and emotional tension high.

The other stories pull similar tricks. After a couple of them, you'll start to see the patterns involved in writing the stories. At that point, you will either like the collection, or you won't. I found the emotional string pulling tedious at the halfway point. ( )
  pussreboots | Jun 24, 2013 |
I love it when I find a collection of short stories like this. Every one of them felt so real. The characters were well drawn, the details of their lives doled out at just the right pace. There was one story in particular that I didn't want to end. I really wanted to find out what happened next. ( )
  jules72653 | May 30, 2013 |
And I'm done with literary fiction. Blame it on me, some deficiency makes me incapable of being moved or impressed by your prose. I also don't appreciate the false advertising. These stories weren't about "keen observations of the human condition" as the blurbs would lead you to believe. They were about dying spouses (mostly cancer), dead brothers, dead babies...shall I go on?
When I took a creative writing (read no genre, just literary fiction please) workshop my teacher said that protagonist should undergo some type of change in these stories, the subtler the better. Maybe that's why Black is getting mountains of praise. The stories are masterfully written, no doubt. But what happens (someone dies)? What changes(protag feels bad)?
I also feel there's a detachment, a resentment of the writer toward her characters. I didn't really care about any of the characters I met.
Maddening, the whole thing was maddening. More annoyed at myself that I didn't abandon this the first time I tried. But noooo...everyone loved this book, even Oprah. ( )
  akmargie | Apr 4, 2013 |
I picked up this collection because I had loved "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It" and heard that this was in a similar vein. It was, but I found it lacking. The stories were beautifully told. The characters were well-defined but didn't develop even though the events in the stories should have led them too. It left me with a bleak outlook of the human condition which may have been the author's intent.

I would have found most of these stories, had I read each individually as a standalone piece, wonderful. However, taken together, the overarching sadness and tragedy in so many different ways and from so many different perspectives wore me down. ( )
2 vote Kara | Feb 5, 2012 |
Why I Chose It - I immediately grabbed this because of the title. It's one of those that can springboard to a ton of different places and I couldn't wait to see what Black meant by it. Robin Black spent eleven years working on these short stories, each one dealing with keeping secrets and dealing with loss. If I had one criticism about this collection, it would be that there aren't many happy/uplifting moments, so it can be emotionally draining reading story after story. But they are all powerful and hit on many life-changing moments one experiences in life.

Black has a wide range of characters in these shorts: a middle-aged cancer patient facing her own mortality, a 70-year-old woman dealing with the loss of her lover, a young pregnant wife unsure if she even wants to be a mother. There's also a women coming to terms with not only losing her twin brother, but dealing with the fact that her driving is what led to his death. Deep stuff, right?
Favorite Story - "The Guide" - The first story in the collection follows a father as he takes his blind teenage daughter to meet her guide dog. Even though Lila has been blind for over a decade, her father struggles with being her eyes to this world, accepting the fact that his daughter will never see again, and unwilling to share with her about his impending divorce. Black does an exceptional job telling this from the father's POV, how his marriage unraveled, what it's like to have a child go through something so traumatic and life-changing, but my favorite thing about this story is the character of Lila. She is strong, calm, brave, so knowledgeable, and it turns out smarter and more perceptive than the people around her, despite her lack of sight. She wears shirts that say "If you can read this T-shirt, maybe YOU can tell ME what it says." An amazing story with well-rounded characters, perfect pacing, and a realistic fall-out from a traumatic situation.

"Pine" was also a great read about a widow unable to allow herself to move on three years after her husband's death despite having a patient, loving guy waiting for her. She struggles with trying to move forward, but not having a clue as to how. As the reader, you want to be her friend in this story to give her guidance before she loses her best friend Kevin (a guy who's been in love with her for years) because she won't give their relationship a chance to be anything more. Emotions run high for all the characters and no one is in the wrong - you can see everyone's viewpoint, which for me, makes great conflict.

Like all books I enjoy, Black sprinkles in powerful lines that had me highlighting and going back to reread:

"This is where they failed, all those years back, he believes. In taking care of one another when tragedy struck. It broke them, broke them all. The truth about his life can wait for a better time." A Country Where You Once Lived

"And he'll tell her all about how lovely the landscape looked; and then maybe he'll tell her once again how painful these moments of unshared beauty can be." The Guide

"Every once in a while, though, that softening patina an extra glass of Chianti can give, that velvet cloth it lays over every jagged edge, evokes a kind of humble gratitude in me." Pine

I recommend reading this collection, especially for "The Guide", "Pine", and "Tableau Vivant". And if you have read any of Black's work, which stories did you love? http://robinblack.net/
  ShortStorySlore | Jun 8, 2011 |
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Ten short stories explore human relationships, moments of change, and unspoken truths.

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