Tenth of December by George Saunders
Review by Lauren
copy from library, but all opinions are my own
Official Summary: A collection of stories which includes “Home,” a wryly whimsical account of a
soldier’s return from war; “Victory lap,” a tale about an inventive abduction
attempt, and the title story, in which a suicidal cancer patient saves the life
of a young misfit.
Review: This summary doesn’t sound all that interesting to me, to be honest, and if you agree, please ignore it. Because this was definitely an interesting short story collection that I really enjoyed. I want to read more short stories but I find I don’t often like most of the them. George Saunders’ most recent collection included a variety of tales about life today and what seems to be in the future, but each one deals with complex emotions. While I didn’t fall in love with every story throughout this book, I found I liked almost all of them and therefore I would recommend others giving this one a chance.
Escape from Spiderhead
This is one of my favorite stories from the collection. It was just long enough to get the full impact, and while I would have loved a novel with this premise, it still works quite well as a short story. I assume this takes place in the future as the narrator, Jeff, is in a facility (a different option instead of jail) where they test scientific drugs on the inhabitants. These drugs allow people to fall in and out of love, speak well, and even experience horrible, emotional pain. It’s a fascinating story that definitely makes you think about right and wrong, and how far you should go to ‘help’ society.
The title character is someone I felt many could relate to on some level. He doesn’t feel adequate enough; he’s not as good-looking or as rich as people around him. He imagines people looking down on him and he judges their lives, but then feels bad and wants to be a good person. You can tell that Al is, in general, a decent guy but he has so many worries and insecurities that his mind often takes angry, or dark, turns. Not everyone is like Al, but everyone has something they think isn’t as worthy as the person next to them.
This was definitely a sad story and one where I wanted to reach into the pages and scream at the women for not understanding what was really going on. Each point of view is a woman, a mother, and someone who can’t understand the other. One is well off, with good children, while the other has to work harder and who has a son who obviously has some type of mental disorder. The well off woman wants to buy her kids a puppy and is visiting this other woman in order to check out the one she hopes to sell. I won’t go into full details, so you can read it for yourself, but this is definitely a story of judgment and misunderstandings.
Overall, I liked most of these stories. They were interesting and easy to read, though many of them make you think and it might take a bit of time to fully grasp the story. Regardless, they are worth checking out and I’m definitely curious to read more by George Saunders.