Tell Me One Thing
by Deena Goldstone

Nan A. Talese / Doubleday, 2014. ISBN 978-0-385-53875-6.
Reviewed by Diane Stanton
Posted on 08/06/2014

Fiction: Mainstream; Anthologies/Collections

While reading the short stories in Deena Goldstone's Tell Me One Thing, I kept thinking of Maya Angelou's notion of people doing what they know and doing better when they know better. Each of the characters in Goldstone's eight stories are notable for their portrayal of human vulnerability as they struggle to do their best in maintaining a sense of stasis in handling the arbitrariness of daily life. They strive to do the best they can in within the lives they have been handed.

Through Goldstone's fluid prose we are able to empathize with the heartfelt pain, joy, and trepidation of change demanded by the dynamics of daily life. She gifts her characters with a strong sense of integrity as they negotiate the best way to cope with loss, dysfunction, death, anger, friendship and love. In "Aftermath," the third of three Jamie stories, Goldstone expertly guides us through the character's unwitting metamorphosis from isolation and guilt as he reaches out in comfort and develops a friendship to the victim of his sister Ellen's actions.

In "Sweet Peas," the first of three Trudy stories, Goldstone introduces us to the newly widowed character. She details the co-dependent relationship of Trudy and her husband, revealing an almost palpable pain of Trudy's attempts to adjust to singular life. Goldstone's narrative renders Trudy's terse comments and curt behavior reasonable and sincere. Her character successfully evokes the sympathies of the reader as she endeavors to do better.

In the third of the Trudy stories, Goldstone transforms Trudy's grief and mourning, directing her energies toward her community in the form of an almost obsessive anger at her next-door neighbors as well as the threat of the demise of her beloved library park. The spiral of anger is quelled through Trudy's actions to build a fence, initiate a petition, and allow herself to respond to the slowly emerging support of friendship with a widowed neighbor. Goldstone's words carry us through this wide range of emotions in this character driven testament to self-actualization.

There are three Jamie stories and three Trudy stories in this collection, but each of the eight stories successfully stands alone for individual reading pleasure. If you are looking for short fiction that taps a range of emotions or just make you feel good, add this book to your must read list.

Deena Goldstone is a screenwriter whose films include "A Bunny's Tale," "Safe Passage," and "Identity Theft." She graduated from UC Berkeley and has a master's in theater arts from NYU. Tell Me One Thing is her debut collection of short stories. Visit her website.

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