Nine Inches: Stories by Tom Perrotta

Nine Inches: Stories
Nine Inches: Stories by Tom Perrotta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First thing’s first: I got this book as an Advance Readers’ Copy through Goodreads First Reads. I always feel like I’ve accomplished something when I win a First Reads book, even though all I’ve really done to get it was enter the giveaway. Well, and I also opened the mailbox.

Now, the review…

So, this book really hit the spot for me. I didn’t realize how much I was craving short stories until I started reading these.

There’s a lot of divorce, a lot of infidelity, a lot of kids who don’t call, but what really got me was the way Perrotta plays with self-identity.

Since I was in high school, sometimes when it’s very quiet in a public place, like in a library or when I’m taking a test (something that happened a lot more in high school than it does in my late 30’s), I think, “What would happen if I just screamed right now?”

That’s kind of what Perrotta’s characters do, except that they actually scream (or the equivalent of a scream in their situation). They’re just chugging along, stuck in a situation of their own making but from which they can’t seem to extricate themselves. Then suddenly they’re faced with a challenge and respond by doing something completely out of character. They give into an impulse and in the fallout of that exercise of free-will, they have to figure out who they are now that they’re someone who will do that out-of-character thing.

Another thing I really enjoyed about these stories is that I keep wondering about the characters. So often when I read short stories, they don’t really stick with me, especially when I read them as quickly as I did these. But since I finished the book last night, I’ve been thinking about the characters as though their stories have continued on outside of the pages of the story, and I could just dip back in and learn more about what’s going on with them. I kind of miss these characters, and usually I only get that sense with novels.

The one downside to these stories is that I think they might have heightened my dislike of suburbia, which I’ve been really disliking lately anyway. I keep thinking, I could just move…somewhere. Anywhere. Maybe Canada. Or Iceland.

If I were a Tom Perrotta character, though, I wouldn’t do anything so outwardly dramatic. Instead I’d do something comparatively small which would completely derail the life I’ve built myself into, changing how others see me and how I see myself.

Funny how moving to Reykjavik seems much less scary than that other kind of change. I’ll have to mull that one over.

And maybe I’ll have to read through Perrotta’s stories again. What a satisfying read that was.

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