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SPOILER ALERT!

The Impressionists

The Impressionists - Andrew Biss I found this book for free on Amazon and thought it sounded interesting and it was short so I figured, why not give it a try? I’m glad I did. This was a series of short stories that don’t have a true beginning or end. They’re small little looks into people’s lives, the inner thoughts of a fat person, an abused wife, a man with a terrible secret, a serial killer on death row, a woman reflecting on a death and her part in it, and a woman dealing with the loss of her son by discovering a new life on the Internet. They’re little pieces of the person’s everyday life, little slices that, while short, tell you quite a lot about the narrators. And the tone is…hard to describe. It is many things at different times: witty, sarcastic, depressing, disheartening, angry. But mostly, it’s matter-of-fact. These people are accepting of their lives no matter how shitty. And while that doesn’t sound very appealing necessarily…I couldn’t stop reading. Something just kept drawing me in. I think it might have been the fact that these characters could have been anyone walking down the street, real people who I could meet any day. And some of the characters resonated with me. I saw myself in them or I found myself, if not agreeing with most of the characters and their choices, then at least understanding why they did what they did.

Big Girl: I rather enjoyed this opening story. While I’m not as big as the narrator, I am pretty darn close and I know exactly what it feels like to have people give you crap for your weight. And I agree with the narrator about how it’s easy to say you feel great in your body and yet in reality, you don’t. I love Peggy’s take on it and found myself laughing throughout. This is the only funny story really in this book and is the most light-hearted of the bunch. Be forewarned.

The Replica: This story was hard to read. The narrator is an abused wife who’s still with the abusive husband (who apparently has a thing for teenage boys). It describes what her life is like now and reflects on how it became like this. It’s very introspective and heartbreaking at the same time. She’s become so…accepting of her fate that you just want to yell at her to wake up and get out of that situation. And yet, things are not always that easy. I almost skipped the story once I started reading it, but I was so drawn in, I couldn’t stop.

A Small Act of Vandalism: Wow, definitely not what I was expecting. The small act of vandalism led to a much more shocking admission. I don’t really know what else to say about this story other than I can’t really judge the narrator because I don’t know what I would have done in the same situation.

One Night Only: I couldn’t help it. Once I read the title, the song from Dreamgirls got stuck in my head, which, oddly enough, went along with the story. The narrator is giving one last performance before his death in a way, even if he’s the only one attending. Gives you an insight in to how people like him (a serial killer) think. No remorse, little regret, and yet one of the lines got to me…”No, ya don’t hurt kids.” I mean, the guy’s a serial killer, someone without morals who one would think society would be better off without and yet…you don’t hurt kids. One rule, one moral he followed and believed in. That right there prevents you from just writing off the narrator as a murderer with no morals because...he has them. Not a lot of them, but they’re still there. And that makes him a two dimensional character. There’s more to him than just his crime, even if we see very little of it. And that fits in with these stories which are, in effect, just little glimpses into these characters and their inner workings.

Organ Failure: Extremely short, two pages on Kindle. This one was a bombshell in a way; happened quickly, with a lasting impression. Big spoiler alert here, so be warned. The woman is reflecting on the death of a man (not sure the relationship between the two, got the feeling of a wife or daughter) who was a drunk who died on his own vomit. And the kicker is she watched him die. In the end, his organs weren’t the only ones that failed, one of hers did too. One organ in particular which helped cause his death. I won’t spoil it further by telling you which one. Looking back, it’s not that hard to guess, yet it’s chilling to read this one.

WYWH: Wish You Were Here. An interesting tale with a narrator I can relate to. The Internet is a place where you can reinvent yourself, where it doesn’t matter if you’re a 55 year old with a missing child or that you have depression or that you aren’t perfect. I know that I became much more open once I got on the Internet and less afraid to share what I really thought or felt. That’s why I think this is one of my favorite stories. Reinventing yourself on the Internet is a common phenomenon. In a lot of cases, people are way less judging and much more open on the Internet than in real life and the narrator discovers this. She starts “dating” a guy on the Internet and also uses the Internet to cope with the loss of her son. Now, I know the Internet isn’t always a “good” place and I know that doctors and others say that it’s not healthy to be so focused on a false you on the web. But reading this story, I didn’t really think that. I just kept thinking, hope it all works out for you, and feeling sympathy and empathy for the narrator. I know what it’s like to want to move on and forget. I think out of the whole book this is the story that would resonate with a lot of readers. It’s sad yet there is a sense of hope. This is the closest the book gets to a “happy ending” and it is a fitting end to the stories. I’m not a person who likes bad endings or bittersweet endings usually so it was nice to see a somewhat happy ending finishing off this book.

While reading this book, I was truly amazed by how the author got in the heads of vastly different people so well in so short a story. I would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to try something unusual. This book definitely lives up to its name. I can’t wait to read more of Mr. Biss’ work.