Astrid Blodgett’s recently published first collection of short stories, You Haven’t Changed A Bit (Univ. of Alberta Press 2013), is stunningly well written. As I finished the book for the second time, I reflected how these stories brought to mind Rainer Maria Rilke’s observation about how each of us cannot help but be a mysterious solitude in relation to one another and, most especially and paradoxically, to our closest loved ones.
Almost all the thirteen stories in this wonderful volume explore fissures in relationships — whether between spouses, partners, siblings, parent-child or friends — and the unspoken mental landscape that inexorably shapes those relationships. Notably, most of these tales are told from the perspective of a female character, who mainly endure the emotional pain that accompanies varying degrees of psychic distance from a loved one.
A small sampling: In “Don’t Do a Headstand” a visit by her husband’s pregnant teen niece highlights the growing and likely irreparable gap between the spouses. “Zero Recall” explores the toxicity of a husband’s mistrust and the wife’s ensuing bitterness at being treated unfairly, both of which threaten the couple’s bond following an unfortunate mix-up at a blood donation center. The realization by young adult friends that divergent life paths will impact their ties in “Let’s Go Straight to the Lake” is skillfully elicited by the piece’s authentic, slightly awkward dialogue and scene-setting. Several of Blodgett’s stories are especially poignant, particularly “Ice Break,” about fragile parent-child relationships and the weight of guilt from choices that can’t be undone. This latter story is one that I’ve written about previously and compelled me to seek out more of Blodgett’s captivating writing.
In an effort to stick with my preference for conciseness, I’ll conclude by simply noting that each of the stories in You Haven’t Changed A Bit is a pitch-perfect gem, characterized by truly graceful and insightful writing by a talented writer who is worth every bit of your attention.
More information about Astrid Blodgett and her writings can be found at the author’s website here.