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“The Bamboo Confessions” and “Andromeda on the Street of Ducklings” (thoughts)

April 6, 2009

100 Shots of Short(Eek! I had this post pre-scheduled to publish much earlier. I just had time to come over to the blog and discovered WP decided not to publish it for whatever reason. Sorry! -Eva)

As promised, here are my thoughts on my two favourite stories from the anthology American Girls About Town. And as usual, my short story reviews are published on Monday to coincide with John’s Short Story Mondays.

“Bamboo Confessions” by Lauren Weisberger
Told in first person by Katie, a twentysomething who realises that perhaps her ‘perfect’ life isn’t so perfect, this story is about taking a break and plunging into a new experience in order to find yourself. Katie impulsively books a backpacking trip to Vietnam, and although her family and boyfriend don’t understand it, she has her reasons:

I’d try to explain that it was just that-the fact that I’d never done anything remotelyspntaneous before, that I hadn’t so much as had lunch by myself in the six years since graduating from college, but she hadn’t understood.

Of course, once she gets to Vietnam, she realises she might have picked the wrong tour group: she’s not very interested in showering over a toilet in a hostel, going on long hikes in the middle of nowhere, or being bossed around by the tour guide. But once she strikes off on her own, with a group of people about her age, she finds herself changing-for the better.

I enjoyed the story because I love travel, and because I think there is something life-changing in spending a significant amount of time in a foreign country, especially one very different from your own. Plus, Katie felt real: she has her ups and downs, and isn’t suddenly a wonderful, fascinated tourist just because she’s in Vietnam. That being said, there were a couple of drawbacks: first of all, I found the financial situation a bit difficult to believe (flights to Asia are expensive-so much so, it would be unlikely to randomly add one to your ‘online shopping cart’) and she takes an ‘official leave of absence’ from work. While I’m not sure what that means, she expects to follow her three weeks in Vietnam with “a few weeks shopping and catching up on stuff…”. Secondly, and this is my big issue with the story, Katie never interacts with real Vietnam: she stays in the expat Western community. It seems a shame to be in a place full of culture and history and not bother to explore any of it. Still, I had fun while reading the story; I’m not sure I’d think it was great as a standalone, but in an anthology full of stories that didn’t impress me, it definitely shone.

“Andromeda on the Street of Ducklings” by Judi Hendricks
In this story, a woman whose engagement has recently ended arrives for a week in Paris. The story alternates between her present experiences and memories of her fiancee. Through her British landlady, she begins to move through her grief.

I liked this one because all of the characters were quirky and fun. There isn’t a big sense of place in the story, but I cared about all of the people and was curious about their lives. Hendricks’ writing style is much more about showing than telling, which is always important, and I love the title! It’s difficult to talk more about the story without giving too much away, but I would actually try out Hendricks’ other writing, which isn’t something I’d say about most of the stories from the anthology. ;)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2009 5:15 am

    Both are different and seem good. It is good to be a part of short story Monday as one gets to read varied genres!

    Year of the Dog

  2. April 7, 2009 6:44 am

    Those sound like two very interesting stories. I’ve never heard of either author, but I’ve found that reading short stories is a great way to discover new authors. The title of that second short story is awesome. :)

  3. April 7, 2009 7:17 pm

    The first author seems as out of touch with the financial and job realities of real people as people behind the sitcoms depicting characters living quite comfortably in New York with mediocre jobs.

  4. April 14, 2009 11:18 pm

    Gautami, I agree-that’s the best part of Short Story Monday!

    J.S., yep: my favourite part of anthologies are the new authors I’m exposed to!

    John, you nailed it!

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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