Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

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)

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