Book Reviews

Cities I’ve Never Lived In by Sara Majka

cities i've never lived in


Do you ever have days that seem pretty mundane and then one particular, significant moment happens which sheds a small glimpse of light into something larger than that little moment?

No? Is it only me and author Sara Majka?

This debut collection of fourteen stories feels like a memoir written as fiction. It opens with Anne as she navigates life after a divorce. She looks back on her life as a child after her father leaves, people she’s encountered, places she’s lived, a relationship with her brother and mother, and relationships with men.

“How strange we are. How different we are from how we think we are. We fall out of love only to fall in love with a duplicate of what we’ve left, never understanding that we love what we love and that it doesn’t change.” ~Saint Andrews Hotel

If I were to write short stories, or in this case (fictional) memories about my life, it would probably seem pretty boring to another reader. But all of a sudden there is a connection between the writer, the character and the reader. Anne and other characters in this linked collection are floating aimlessly but with a purpose. The juxtaposition of being lost and found, grounded and free falling are some of the themes:

“…I was full of the feeling of being nowhere, or in someone else’s life, or between lives.” ~Reverón’s Dolls

Each story is a snapshot of Anne’s life. She does suffer from some sort of illness, maybe depression, and throughout the book she is trying to understand herself a bit more from her experiences and choices. Memory also comes into the mix because what do we really remember of our lives? Some events are so vivid and some no matter how hard we try to remember are cloudy and uncertain.

I think this collection is a tough sell to most readers. Nothing significant happens except the dissection of a woman’s life and those she encounters. There is no compelling plot with twists and reveals. But there is a quiet, meditative reflection of beautiful language, emotion and unsolvable mysteries of life that had me rereading passages over and over. Majka’s debut left me longing for more stories by her and I look forward to what she writes next.

“A book about belonging, and how much of yourself to give up in the pursuit of that, Cities I’ve Never Lived In offers stories that reveal, with great sadness and great humor, the ways we are most of all citizens of the places where we cannot be.

Stories I’ve Never Lived In by Sara Majka is 192 pages and released on February 16, 2016 by Graywolf Press. I picked up a copy at my local library.







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