Louisa Meets Bear: Linked Stories by Lisa Gornick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Generous, Compassionate, Beautifully-Written Novel of Linked Stories
Lisa Gornick's third published novel, Louisa Meets Bear, is that trickiest of formats: a collection of "short" stories (some novella-length) that are linked through connections between some of the characters. Each episode can stand alone, but when strung together they form a larger whole--a novel. It takes very fine writing to pull this off, to overcome the reader's reluctance to let go at the end of one segment and plunge into the next, not knowing how, or if, it relates to the previous one, and Gornick has that kind of talent. The last episode completes the circle, and, as other reviewers have said, leaves the reader with the desire to read the whole work over again, the awareness of these connections in the background increasing the anticipated pleasure in re-experiencing these separate narratives as a filigreed, carefully-constructed work.
Gornick's credentials include a degree in clinical psychology and training in psychoanalysis, and it shows. Her characters are three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood human beings, all depicted with compassion and generosity by their creator, even as they behave well or badly, as real people do. Gornick is also a terrific prose stylist. The combination makes for a dazzling feat of storytelling, incorporating the losses and tragedies of life, and its more prosaic moments, into portraits of mature adults who have come through their youthful trials and settled into successful or at least contented lives (or not).
I read everything as e-books these days, because of my eyesight and for the convenience, but this is one of the few titles that I am planning to buy in paper also. It's a keeper, one that I will reread several times over the years, not only for the great stories, but for the fascinating architecture, the way that all these narratives interlock and overlap, and because of my admiration (and let's be honest--envy) of the author's artistry and craft.
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