Problems with People by David Guterson

Problems with People by David GutersonProblems with People: Stories by David Guterson
Published by Knopf on June 3, 2014
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 176
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.
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Ten sharply observed, funny, and wise new stories from the best-selling author of Snow Falling on Cedars: stunning explorations of the mysteries of love and our complex desire for connection.
Ranging from youth to old age, the voices that inhabit Problems with People offer tender, unexpected, and always tightly focused accounts of our quest to understand each other, individually, and as part of a political and historical moment. These stories are shot through with tragedy—the long-ago loss of a young boyfriend, a son’s death at sea; poignant reflections upon cultural and personal circumstances—whether it is being Jewish, overweight and single, or a tourist in a history-haunted land; and paradigmatic questions about our sense of reality and belonging. Spanning diverse geographies—all across America, and in countries as distant as Nepal and South Africa—these stories showcase David Guterson’s signature gifts for characterization, psychological nuance, emotional and moral suspense, and evocations of small-town life and the natural world. They celebrate the ordinary yet brightening surprises that lurk within the dramas of our daily lives, as well as the return of a contemporary American master to the form that launched his astonishing literary career.


The stories in Problems with People are ten snapshots of relationships, connections, human experiences, life. This collection explores how we relate to each other and how we perceive ourselves and those around us.

By far, I found “Shadow” to be the most memorable of all ten stories. A newly diagnosed dementia patient attempts to visit his youngest son. This experience causes him to shift from defiance in the face of his diagnosis to acceptance (and maybe resignation). It’s difficult to watch, but Guterson’s sense of style and atmosphere gently places a thought in the back of your mind: This happens in real life.

That reminder holds true in each of the stories in Problems with People. Whether it’s the husband going to great lengths to try to connect with his estranged wife, the budding of an unusual but sweet friendship, or the parents hearing an account of their son’s death, Guterson momentarily puts readers into someone else’s shoes in a way that brings you out of each story with a little more insight, a little more compassion.