Thursday, January 4, 2018

Book Review: "You Think It, I'll Say It" by Curtis Sittenfeld

Many of us, whether we'll admit it or not, have made snap judgments about people. Sometimes we judge people we might have met once, or known a long time ago, and are coming into contact with them again after a while. Sometimes we believe something about a person we know well, while other times, it's people we don't know, but we formulate an opinion based on something we hear them say or do.

The characters in Curtis Sittenfeld's first story collection, You Think It, I'll Say It, are all guilty of judging others, but the tension in the 10 stories occurs when those judgments are revealed to be incorrect, either gradually or all at once. The end result are thought-provoking stories which leave their mark in your head, and at times, in your heart.

I enjoyed all of the stories in the collection, although I felt eight of them were the strongest. My favorites included: "The Prairie Wife," in which an unappreciated housewife realizes a popular celebrity was a girl she was romantically involved with briefly during summer camp, although the celebrity is now a married darling of conservatives; "Gender Studies," which follows a college professor's fling with her airport shuttle driver—for the wrong reason; "Off the Record," about a freelance writer lined up to interview an actress on the cusp of major fame, someone she had connected with when interviewing them a few years earlier; "The World Has Many Butterflies," in which a man and a woman engage in a gossipy game every time they see each other, but only one interprets that as the sign of something deeper; and "Do-Over," about a reunion between two boarding school classmates who each have different interpretations of past events.

I've been a fan of Sittenfeld's since I read her debut novel, Prep, back in 2005. I found it so engaging and surprising, and I've followed her work ever since. That same talent is more than evident in You Think It, I'll Say It—these stories aren't outlandish or unrealistic, and you could imagine the situations the characters face happening to you, or hearing about them from people you know. Her writing style is so breezy and approachable, and there were times I didn't realize how dazzling her words were until after they passed me by, kind of like a person wearing a cologne or perfume you suddenly catch the scent of.

I know short stories aren't for everyone, but this is one of those collections I think even non-story lovers might enjoy. Most of the stories feel like mini-novels, and there were at least a few I'd love to see developed into something more expansive. You Think It, I'll Say It is a prime example of why I love stories, and the incredible talent it takes to make a collection work. Come on, give it a shot!

NetGalley and Random House provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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