I'm not usually a big fan of short stories, but picked up The Tenth of December by George Saunders because it's gotten such great press. I was instantly hooked. I could not have imagined how much these short stories would affect me or stay with me, but indeed, I find myself thinking about the characters, their sadness, the lyrical writing, its passion -- constantly. There are some standout stories that are true masterpieces -- my favorites were "The Victory Lap," about a teenage girl that is kidnapped the day before her birthday, and "Escape from Spiderhead" which is a commentary about modern pharmaceuticals, but is basically about love.
These stories have an air of melancholy to them, but the characters are so vividly portrayed that its impossible not to feel what they are feeling. These are stand-alone stories with no links between the stories or the characters, but you'll find yourself on every page of this book. I saw myself in the chubby 12 year old kid with an incredible imagination, but I also saw myself in the afraid mother. Saunders has an amazing ability to get his readers inside the heads of a variety of narrators in such short pages. His tone is hushed and polished and clearly gets to the heart of the matter very simply and very powerfully. There are definite themes in these stories -- some focus on social aspects of wealth, sadness, morality, class, love and loss -- and all the parts add up to much much more than the whole.
This book is dark but lovely. It's incredible that Saunders is able to do justice to humanity in just a few short pages and write with a simultaneous lightness and heaviness that will leave you craving more.