Title: Man V. Nature
Author: Diane Cook
Publisher: Harper Books
October 7, 2014
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
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From the Summary:
"These stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive ... Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, complicated, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves?"
I've been sitting on this review until the very last moment because I haven't known where to begin. My head is spinning. Every time I think I know what I want to say about this collection, I come up with a ton of other ideas, too much to include in one review.
Each story centers around a personification of "nature," which manifests itself as an aspect of the natural world, an aspect of human nature, or often, a blend of the two. Our hopes and fears, our virtues and failings, our natural lives and deaths, the balance we strive for, the societies we've created: All of these things are confronted, pled with, fought, accepted. It gets intense. It will take your breath away.
"Somebody's Baby" had the greatest impact on me, thanks to moments like these:
"She felt shot at every day of her life since she'd begun having children."
"Motherhood was naturally replete with loss."
"If you could suddenly get back everything you'd already said good-bye to, would you want it?"
There are so many ways to interpret the stories in this book because there are so many different things to see, and they come at you quickly, little wisps of understanding. Sometimes a new insight would jump out at me and, to be honest, it barely seemed to relate to the actual words I was reading. And sometimes a meaning felt juuuust out of reach, as if I needed to pause, sit with the words for a while, maybe read the story again at a later date in order to grasp yet another layer or angle.
I'm thankful I had Kelly from The Well-Read Redhead (whose review I'm going to read as soon as I click "Publish") because Man V. Nature is an astonishing collection that demands discussion. Grab some fellow bookworms who enjoy short stories, who enjoy a surreal read that is also grounded in reality, and who don't mind getting a little creeped out and uncomfortable ... because you are going to want to talk and talk about these stories.