Derek Emerson's Reviews > The Secret Lives of People in Love

The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy
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May 16, 10

bookshelves: 2010-books-read
Read in May, 2010

I was so taken by Simon Van Booy's Love Begins in Winter that I decided to go to his first collection of stories, The Secret Lives of People in Love. As you can see, Van Booy likes love, which says quite a bit in today's world. This collection garnered praise and gathered fans, but it lacks the consistent strength of Winter. Many of these stories sound like an MFA student getting their bearings straight, and indeed Van Booy says that is when he wrote many of these (and won some awards). Some sound like typical slice-of-life scenarios looking for a big ending, and at times they work -- I'm just not too fond of this type of work.

Where Van Booy creates a unique voice is in his longer works. Winter really contains a couple of novellas, and in Secret Lives his slightly longer works offer more substance. "Where They Hide Is A Mystery" explores the life of a young boy whose mother dies and whose father grows more distant as a result. The somewhat stereotypic "wise Indian" character could be rewritten, but the story ends with a sense of hope which I like in Van Booy's work. So few writers today see any hope that it seems they are disconnected from the daily lives of most readers (and perhaps themselves). Van Booy sees potential in life.

One of the short stories that also accomplishes this is "Save as Many as You Ruin," which is one of the better titles I've seen in some time. Here we see someone quickly open himself to the possibility of happiness despite the tragedies he has experienced. That openness to happiness is a quality too few writers and people in general are open to.
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