Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Release Spotlight: Swimming with Strangers

Swimming with Strangers
By Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum

I admit that the cover is what drew me to the book. A woman stands waist deep in a large body of water as a storm rages overhead; she’s soaking wet despite the bright red umbrella she clings to.

Then the title popped out: Swimming with Strangers. Those three simple words symbolized so much next to this image of a solitary woman. When I got home with the book, only moments passed before I was curled up with it, the promise of wordplay at hand.

The talent evident in Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum’s collection of short stories goes well beyond the cover. Her stories begin with seemingly ordinary circumstances—a student crushing on her professor, a couple who finds their relationship is not what they imagined it to be, a teenager caught in her parents’ divorce—and yet Lunstrum crafts her words and their cadence to make the stories anything but ordinary.

“In the boat Alma sat up but slipped her hand beneath Charlie’s, felt the cool of his grasp and the knit of his fingers between hers as he held to her.” These could be any two people in the world, and in life we might easily dismiss this scene. Lunstrum’s voice doesn’t allow us to, though, as the ascenders and descenders of her words loop around our minds and captivate them, washing away all desire to look the other way.

And even in the midst of ugliness, Lunstrum brings the beauty of language: “She imagined the wasps as she dipped her head beneath the surface—their frantic buzzing like the buzzing of the water rushing into her ears, their movements disoriented and unsteady where they shivered above the broken husk of their nest.”

Lunstrum’s writing reminds us that short stories are far from a lost art. Capable of entrancing more than any tome could, each story in Swimming with Strangers will caress your word-savoring yearnings.

Review by Ali McCart, Indigo Editing, LLC

ISBN: 9780811860765
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pub Date: November 2008
Hardcover: $22.95

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