Summary and book reviews of Alone With You by Marisa Silver

Alone With You

Stories

By Marisa Silver

Alone With You
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2010,
    164 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2011,
    176 pages.

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Book Summary

Marisa Silver dazzled and inspired readers with her critically acclaimed The God of War (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist), praised by Richard Russo as “a novel of great metaphorical depth and beauty.” In this elegant, finely wrought new collection, Alone With You, Silver has created eight indelible stories that mine the complexities of modern relationships and the unexpected ways love manifests itself. Her brilliantly etched characters confront life’s abrupt and unsettling changes with fear, courage, humor, and overwhelming grace.

In the O. Henry Prize–winning story “The Visitor,” a VA hospital nurse’s aide contends with a family ghost and discovers the ways in which her own past haunts her. The reticent father in “Pond” is confronted with a Solomonic choice that pits his love for his daughter against his feelings for her young son. In “Night Train to Frankfurt,” first published in The New Yorker, a daughter travels to an alternative-medicine clinic in Germany in a gambit to save her mother’s life. And in the title story, a woman vacations in Morocco with her family while contemplating a decision that will both ruin and liberate them all.

From “Temporary,” where a young woman confronts the ephemeral nature of companionship, to “Three Girls,” in which sisters trapped in a snowstorm recognize the boundaries of childhood, the nuanced voices of Alone With You bear the hallmarks of an instant classic from a writer with unerring talent and imaginative resource. Silver has the extraordinary ability to render her fictional inhabitants instantly relatable, in all their imperfections. Her stories have the singular quality of looking in a mirror. We see at once what is familiar and what is strange. In these stirring narratives, we meet ourselves anew.

Below is the complete text of "Temporary"....

Temporary

Vivian and Shelly lived in downtown Los Angeles, in an industrial space that belonged, nominally, to a ribbon factory whose warehouse was attached. Shelly discovered it one night when the band she belonged to had played at an impromptu concert there. When the evening was over and everyone had cleared out, Shelly and a man she’d met that evening stayed on. The man left soon afterward, but Shelly did not. She worked out an arrangement with the owner of the ribbon factory: the rent would be paid in cash, and if Shelly was discovered by the housing authorities, the owner would claim that she was a squatter.

Vivian met Shelly at the temp agency where they both applied for work. She had just finished two years of community college in Oklahoma and moved to L.A. Shelly offered her a small room in return for half the rent. She couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be thrown out in a week or a month, but it was cheaper ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction
Marisa Silver returns with an indelible collection of eight stories that mine the complexities of familial relationships and the surprising ways love manifests itself in our lives. In Alone With You, her brilliantly etched characters struggle to deal with life’s abrupt and painful changes. Silver has the signature talent of rendering her fictional inhabitants instantly relatable, in all their imperfections. Through them she powerfully underscores our own unquenchable need for connection.

Discussion Questions

  1. In “Temporary,” Vivian seems content and almost revels in mediocrity. She remembers being labeled by an advisor as a “below-the-radar kind of girl” (p. 4), yet this does not seem to bother ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Alone With you is a jewel.¬†Actually a cache of many gems, each one complete and powerful in both the feelings that they evoke and the eloquent way in which they unfold. ... this collection of tales is about ordinary, down to earth people, trying to make sense out of life's messiness. We easily identify with them and see ourselves, our own lives played out in the defining moments of their journeys. We ache for them and with them, for their dilemmas, their hardships and their sorrows.¬†Yet even as they falter and stumble, they determinedly move forward with quiet strength and grace, not a whiner in the lot.   (Reviewed by BJ Nathan Hegedus).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Paula Fox, Newbery Medal-winning novelist and author of Borrowed Finery: A Memoir
Alone With You, a collection of wondrous stories by Marisa Silver, will endure. Each story shatters the commonplace with the telling detail that evokes crucial events in human lives. She is a real writer; the breath of life infuses her work.

Author Blurb Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
Marisa Silver's Alone With You is a triumph for the short story. Funny and surprising and unsentimental, the collection finds in dark situations a persuasive hope. Every story is striking both in its emotional complexity, and in the wry clarity with which it's told.

Author Blurb Connie Ogle, miamiherald.com/"Between the Covers" book blog
The stories in Alone With You are portraits of everyday sorrows, but Silver keeps hope alive, even when it's on life support. Her characters often feel powerless, then discover what they can do - Silver makes clear with devastating simplicity, that tendency to change course works to our advantage - and passes it along to her characters with grace and insight as they grapple with change, revelation and the complexities of modern life. These are clear-eyed, unsentimental stories that resound with resilience.

Library Journal

Short stories to be savored, these are recommended for a wide range of readers.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review...Silver infuses her characters with a fatalistic resilience that's revealed through tiny, perfect details.

The Wall Street Journal

Marisa Silver tells eight quietly haunting tales about love, memory and making ends meet.

Los Angeles Times - Ron Carlson

Longing swells each of the eight stories in Alone With You, as Silver investigates 'aloneness' and the dear and inevitable distance between people in loving relationships. These stories stand out because of their high tolerance for complexity, never opting for a single note. The situations here don't settle on the neat broad themes of loss or connection, but there are always surprises, nuances, changes of heart.

O, The Oprah Magazine

[In] Alone With You, Marisa Silver explores the impact of collateral damage, whether sustained in war or life - brisk and keenly observed - Silver's characters manage somehow to emerge as credible realists, unafraid of the rigors of making do. Even in the darkest moments, their stories are illuminating as they find the courage to face who they are.

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BJ chats with Marisa Silver about Alone With You

Are you an eeker or a gusher? Do you have to go back and enlarge what you have first written or do you delete and tighten things up?

Marisa SilverI love that distinction – eeker vs. gusher! I am definitely an eeker. I work slowly and I attempt to work steadily. I try to write a certain number of pages every single day. But I rarely sit down and have any idea of what I'm going to do next. I feel like I'm always in a dark tunnel pawing my way forward, tripping, bashing my head…it ain't pretty!

BJ HegedusDo you have your stories figured out before you put pen to paper or do you let them work themselves out as you go along?

I never  have stories worked out. I usually begin with a shred of a notion, some particular ...

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