Clea Young, 224 pgs, Freehand Books, freehand-books.com, $19.95
Clea Young’s debut short-story collection has that fantastic quality of making the reader feel as though they are exploring their own memories, even when the details couldn’t be more different from their own reality. In Teardown, Young captures the deceptively benign experiences in the lives and relationships of a diverse cast of characters, and reveals the unexpected gravity of those fleeting moments.
In one story, an expecting couple loses each other in IKEA, forcing a father-to-be to re-evaluate the enormity of his love and his life. In another, a kleptomaniac runs into the high school flame who once made her life miserable, and she successfully demolishes any power he ever had over her. From these characters, to a younger brother playing out his lifelong fraternal insecurities on a disappointing camping trip, Young masterfully interprets the complex emotions involved in many different types of relationships. She tells stories that span a short amount of time, yet gives her characters much longer lives, through her intimate and realistic glimpses into their thoughts, loves, and regrets.
In another story, the main character participates in a spiritual exercise, and while watching her fellow participants, realizes she wants “to gather up all their grievances and humiliations and regrets and examine them…to measure them against [her] own.” This is precisely what Clea Young invites her readers to do among her cast of average people in Teardown. (Nicole Partyka)