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You Have a Friend in 10A: Stories

Review

You Have a Friend in 10A: Stories

It is rare that the same imaginative force and storytelling ability is found in a writer when he or she pens both long-form novels and short fiction. They take different skill sets, and only a few novelists have been able to find success with the shorter forms. Maggie Shipstead, she of the amazing GREAT CIRCLE (in contention for the Women’s Fiction Prize as of the writing of this review) and other wonderful books, has shown that she can do it all in her latest, a short story collection called YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A.

"Each of the 10 stories in this book is a snapshot, a fully loaded freeze frame of love and death and everything in between. You can read them in one sitting or space them out, making it a daily treat."

The cover of the book is a parody of airplane safety procedures and includes crying and drinking panels, as well as suiting up in a flotation vest. The art’s tongue-in-cheek humor gives us a heads up on the irreverent and fascinating tales that you will find inside. The title story is my favorite: a former child actress suffers a strange breakup with her life in a Hollywood cult. “The Great Central Pacific Guano Company” sets an international cast on an island; although they are all from different countries, an old ghost ship and other mysteries bring them together. In “La Moretta,” two newlyweds encounter some obstacles when attempting a pitch-perfect honeymoon in a foreign land. These stories grace us with a myriad of destinations and a wide variety of human foibles and desires.

As Olympic athletes spend a fateful evening together or an old man’s death in Paris calls for the reader to help solve a mystery, Shipstead takes a particular situation and immerses us in it. There is no long-winded rigamarole concerning backstories or lengthy dissertations about the emotional weight of any one person’s actions or needs. Instead, we delve right into the blooming part of a story, the necessary details incorporated into it, a lean and mean “be here now” kind of storytelling that speeds us through something that will have emotional resonance later. The stories go down easy, but readers eventually will find themselves becoming aware of the many inherent questions in each storyline.

“Quietly, he slid out from under the covers, picked his clothes up off the floor. He dressed in the dark hallway, crept down the stairs.” The straight-ahead pick-up in the middle of actions and the use of commas to separate them made me feel as if I was reading a screenplay. The efficiency of the writing and its form here make for deceptively smooth storytelling. The emotional impact, however, will get you in the end.

Each of the 10 stories in this book is a snapshot, a fully loaded freeze frame of love and death and everything in between. You can read them in one sitting or space them out, making it a daily treat. Because this is not a concept book, it is nice to pick and choose which compelling tale you would like to read at any one time. Savor each morsel.

I typically am not a fan of short story collections. I like having my life swallowed into an epic tale. But with the shortened attention span that I now have after the anxieties of the outside world eating my brain for the last six years, YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A is a gift. I am grateful to Maggie Shipstead for this special summer delivery.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on May 20, 2022

You Have a Friend in 10A: Stories
by Maggie Shipstead

  • Publication Date: May 17, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0525656995
  • ISBN-13: 9780525656999