Long-time novelist Lily King released a collection of ten short stories on Nov. 9. “Five Tuesdays in Winter” offers a glimpse into the spectrum of human longing—longing for love, acceptance, and understanding.
The stories, told in the voices of distinctive, complex characters explore the different ways in which humans experience the pains and rewards of love. Although I enjoyed all of the short stories to varying degrees, some of my favorites were “When in the Dordogne,” the titular “Five Tuesdays in Winter,” and “Waiting for Charlie.”
In the titular “Five Tuesdays in Winter,” Mitchell, a divorced bookseller, feels the pang of love again when he finds himself yearning for his employee. His twelve-year-old daughter, Paula, “accuse[s] him of loving his books but hating his customers.” He doesn’t understand his daughter’s love for his ignorant customers, similar to not understanding his own love for his employee, Kate. After Kate begins tutoring Paula in Spanish every Tuesday, Paula plays matchmaker in an attempt to bring Mitchell and his secret crush together. This story is heartwarming and the characters, though complicated, are easy to care about. This was my favorite story in the collection.
“When in the Dordogne” is told in retrospect; a young boy about to enter high school learns what it means to be cared about when two college kids, Ed and Grant, take care of him for a summer after his parents leave for vacation. The boy, born long after his adult siblings, views himself as ‘an inconvenience.’ Ed and Grant spend the summer convincing him he isn’t a burden in this coming-of-age story that explores the fun of life, the magic of unexpected friendships and the differences love can make. This classic ‘that one summer’ story captures the magic of youth in less than 30 pages and overall was an enjoyable read.
One of the more grim stories, “Waiting for Charlie,” follows a powerless grandfather as he wonders what it means to be alive. After an accident leaves his granddaughter, Charlie, in a condition doctors aren’t sure she will ever recover from, her 90-year-old hubris grandfather begins to blame her for her mistakes. Watching her unconscious body, he begins to wonder if maybe they aren’t so different; “They were both adrift from their bodies. And without a body, what are we?” This was one of the shorter stories but it left the biggest impact on me. It serves as a reminder of the fragility of life and what can be taken for granted.
King explores the wide range of human love, from crushes in childhood to a parent’s love for their child, with sharp, expressive language and masterful storytelling. “Five Tuesdays in Winter” is an intimate collection of stories examining the power of love and the ways it can change us, for better or for worse.
I recommend this collection and give it 4 out of 5 stars.