What a collection! Music For Wartime has been on my radar for some time. It’s a collection of short stories and there’s not a dud in the bunch. Let me rephrase that. Each and every one has something to take away, to ponder, to question, to smile about.
There are one to three page “Legends” spaced out within the collection, possibly referencing Makkai’s family history. “The Worst You’ll Ever Feel” is about a young boy understanding what his father when through in Germany while he watches a Romanian violinist play. “The November Story” perfectly depicts behind the scenes of a reality show while relationships are falling apart and coming together. “The Miracle Years of Little Fork” (one of my faves) tells the story of the aftermath when an elephant dies during a traveling circus and the Reverend of the town grapples with his own faith. Probably the most talked about “Couple of Lovers on a Red Background” stands out with the strange, fantastical story of a woman who finds Johann Sebastian Bach living in her piano. The collection ends with “The Museum of the Dearly Departed” where twelve people die in an apartment gas leak. One of them is Michael who was found in bed with his ex-wife Vanessa. The problem is that Melanie, his fiancée, was told his ex was dead years ago and is the recipient of everything in Vanessa’s apartment being next of kin on Michael’s will. The lawyer perfectly responds to her conundrum with “We take most everything at face value. Otherwise how could we get by?”
These 17 stories are not easy to describe or review. They can be read out of order and over any length of time. It took me almost a month to get through this 225 page collection, not because they were challenging to read but because they each could stand on their own, be put down and picked back up days later.
I can’t recommend this quirky, eclectic collection written so beautifully enough. Pick up the book and try one of the stories I mentioned above. You’ll thank me later. 🙂
Ann from Books on the Table has a great post interviewing Makkai here.