Monday, 20 October 2014

Book Review: Stay Up With Me - Tom Barbash

Stay Up With Me
By Tom Barbash
Published by Simon & Schuster
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback forthcoming

Tom Barbash’s compelling stories within Stay Up With Me explore the struggles of characters in everyday situations and they way we tell lies to cope with the world and its expectations.

Stay Up With Me is a short story collection that will refuse to allow you to put the book down after one story. I found myself promising to read just one more but I kept going and I was able to finish this book in no time at all. Barbash has a way of capturing the reader and refusing to let them take a break.

Many stories reminded of Richard Yates and Raymond Carver with seemingly ordinary characters, who have resentments building underneath their public fa├žade. Jealousy and dysfunction lurk under the surface of these normal characters. There is a mother who is jealous of her son’s sexual conquest in The Break while in How to Fall a woman goes on a singles skiing trip to help get over her ex-boyfriend but finds herself more isolated than she would have been if she had stayed in the city.

Barbash creates characters that the reader only sees only after a major event has happened to them, usual off the page before the story begins. There are deaths of family members and friends, break ups, isolation of living in a new area like the narrator in Somebody’s Son. These characters are trying to forge a new identity, deal with the grief and move forwards with their lives. These characters are on the brink of change and their resistance to change makes an engaging and fascinating story.

My particular favourite story was Balloon Night where Timkin’s wife, Amy has left him but he continues with the party they were planning. Through out the night he pretends to his guests that his wife is away on business to save face not only for himself but also her friends. This allows him another day where he would not have to face the reality of his wife leaving him. I liked the way Barbash created a character that has had a change in fortune but is refusing to accept this and move on with his life. He is trapped in a bubble and this does not bother him.

Stay Up With Me is a short story collection that I would seriously recommend to any one who loves short stories either reading them or writing them. Even novel lovers will enjoy this collection as the characters linger just as much as a novel does after the last page.

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