I haven’t read a short story collection in ages and I can’t believe I left this sitting on my shelf for so long. Sweet Home is a collection of stories about childhood, parenthood, and loss. Some have a magical realism / fairytale aspect to them, and others are realism, but all have an element of darkness or sadness. All of the stories are strong, and they manage to both stand on their own and hang together really well. A collection without an odd ‘weak’ story is a rare thing.
Although difficult things happen to the central characters, the incident/event is always just out of frame, as the stories are more about dealing with normal life in the aftermath, or just normal family life in general. The stories that struck me the most were those about the anxieties and losses in parenthood. They feel honest and true and beautiful without sentimentality. So many of the parenthood stories seem to be about an anxiety about doing the ‘right’ thing, and how what they’re doing will be perceived, both by the child in the future (as their own childhoods are remembered) and by others nearby.
I’m finding it hard to pick out a stand-out favourite story, as they’re all so strong, but to give you an idea of the kind of stories in the collection, I liked ‘The Rescue’ about a father watching the Chilean miners be rescued and hoping he can still rescue his drug addict son; ‘Sweet Home’ is a modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel which recasts the witch in a different light; ‘Just in Case’ about a grieving mother trying to borrow babies from her friends and neighbours; and ‘Everything a Parent needs to Know’ about a mother trying to do the best for her daughter through parenting books, but resigning herself to her daughter collecting and hoarding disappointing memories.
I could list them all, basically. But the important thing is that, despite the fact you might get your heart a little bit broken, it’s also just enjoyable to read.
I highly recommend this collection. I even said ‘wow’ out loud when I was reading it which never happens. Don’t let it linger on your shelf like I did.