Whenever I start a book of short stories, I wonder what I will find. Many authors can't do justice to a story in this format and the result is more of an outline for a longer novel than a complete story. Jeremy Lane impressed me with his ability to tell the story. In almost all of the offerings in this little book, I was immediately invested in the characters and their predicaments. I even teared up at one point.
There are a few common themes that tie the stories together. All of the stories include main characters wanting something to happen 'while they are still themselves'. This line shows up again and again and it got me to thinking about the changes in our lives that either evolve or devolve our perceptions of ourselves. Pretty heavy thinking for a book of short stories. Mr Lane reminded me that 'short' doesn't have to mean 'mindless'.
The stories also have a common setting: small town, anywhere. These were towns I recognised. Towns I lived in at one time or another. Anyone with any connection to rural life will feel right at home in these stories. Don't worry if you are an urbanite, though, the descriptions are rich enough that you won't get lost.
We all know there is no such thing as perfect, especially when it comes to man-made. The one downfall in While I am Still Myself comes at the end. The last story, Round Bale was OK but it didn't live up to the other stories in the book. I was sad that it was the last one because I would have loved to end on a high note. Not that it wasn't good - it just seemed truncated in a way the others didn't. It was the only one of the stories in the collection that felt like a short story.
Most bibliophiles carry a book in their purse or car to carry them through wait times. This collection would be perfect for that situation. It is small and light and decidedly worth reading. It is also being released tomorrow (January 10, 2012). So you can pick one up hot off the press!
A Taste from page 35:
Annabel turned to face him and after stomping her foot down with authority, gave a stern reply. "Johnny Wheeler, I didn't tell you about this so you could whine and cry and try to talk me out of it. I'm not gonna sit around and wait to go crazy like my poor mother. I gotta see things in this world. I wanna live. Go places. While I'm still myself and can make things happen."
Character Development 4