Sarah's Reviews > Like You'd Understand, Anyway

Like You'd Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard
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's review
Oct 23, 2007

it was amazing

Like You’d Understand Anyway is a collection of all first-person short stories, though the similarities between them end there. The settings and time periods range from the site of Hadrian’s Wall during the late Roman Empire, to present day Alaska, to Chernobyl during the nuclear meltdown, to gothic France, to summer camp in 1960s America.

In these stories, Shepard does something that very, very few contemporary do these days: he uses his imagination and has fun. No, you won’t find stories here about a struggling writer in New York City wrestling with ennui or a writing professor who longs for his younger days in Europe. You’ll find adventure stories of failed expeditions in the Australian outback and totally awesome hunts by lackluster Nazis for evidence of the yeti in Tibet during World War II. Each story is lovingly researched and each narrator has such surprisingly authentic and passionate voices that you’ll often slip into simply believing what you read.

Throughout the book, Shepard proves so many of his writing peers wrong: contemporary literature doesn’t have to be boring, and writing from experience doesn’t mean that you have to write about yourself. You can write a self-reflective story that has a lot of action. You can take thoughts and feelings that you’ve had and transfer them to different places and times.

And that’s the real beauty of the stories: Shepard has a genuine, almost scary handle on the human condition. Think you won’t relate to a Nazi yeti seeker or the first woman in space or a rage-filled defensive end on a high school football team? You’re wrong. As far as you’re being a hopelessly flawed human, Shepard’s got your number. He has that rare writer’s talent - to find combinations of words for feelings we can’t normally find combinations of words for. He’s simply a great storyteller.
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