One of many things I like about my current book club is that the choosing of titles is a collaboration (involving initial nominations and then a round of voting) to determine our reads for the full year. As a result, the books are a mix of things I have heard of (and want to read and/or have read) and books/authors that are totally unknown to me. This book of short stories by Etgar Keret, an Israeli author, falls into the latter category.
After the first two stories, I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of Keret’s style but then I read “The Next-to-Last Time I Was Shot Out of a Cannon” and I felt more engaged and curious about where each story was going to take me. If there is one major idea connecting these tales, I’m not sure what it is, but there are some repeated themes—fathers and sons, pot smoking, powerlessness, and the echoes of the Holocaust.
In Keret’s stories, fantastical things happen like a boy’s father turns into a rabbit or a newly arrived angel has trouble achieving a state of happiness in heaven, but there are also more realistic stories where a young father’s attempt to prevent his son from seeing a suicide leads to unexpected consequences or a couple adopt a problematic dog in the aftermath of the wife’s miscarriage. The stories that were the most haunting involved characters trapped in situations they don’t fully understand until it’s too late (and yes, I see the parallels).
Some of the stories worked better for me than others but overall, this collection gave me much to think about. I suspect it will give my book club a lot to talk about as well.