Ann Beattie’s new short story collection is entitled The State We’re In. It’s a collection of loosely interconnected stories about the citizens of Maine. It reads like Ms. Beattie visited a small town in Maine and knocked on a door of a few dozen people and asked to them to tell her the most interesting story of their lives. Beattie likes to keep things real in her stories. It’s usually about ordinary people who never become extraordinary, but that’s the point. It’s because of this that some stories will resonate with readers more than others.
The opening stories and closing stories of this collection are best. The ones in between are pretty forgettable once you finish them. Now don’t take that as a dig. We all meet people in life that we somehow forget days after we meet them. The stories that are the strongest stay with you for a while. , sounds like life. Beattie has been writing these types of stories for years and this is what makes her one of America’s greatest short story tellers out there. Just read her New Yorker Story collection if you don’t believe me.
Now getting to the great stories in this collection. The opener, “What Magical Realism Would Be” is about a girl named Jocelyn and her family and deals with Jocelyn and deciding who she wants to be and what everybody thinks is best for her. You see her and her family in another story called “Endless Rain Into a Paper Cup”.
Yancey is another great story about a dog named Yancey and it’s owner of the both of them getting older and the things they both have to face whether they want to or not.
The two strongest stories “Missed Calls” and “The Repurposed Barn” are the final two which deal with a secret room that kids happen to come upon and what that room contains. It was left abandoned by its previous tenant. When the discovery is made it’s not dead bodies or something awful. I wont ruin what it is but it keeps the story moving and the final story is about the auction of these items it brings a sweetness to the whole collection. We get to meet Jocelyn again and where she is in her life and the auction kind of represents the townspeople themselves. It’s the townspeople judging another person’s life in what they collected and they get to decide what the value of that is. Some find things ugly and silly while others find it beautiful. Again, it’s just like the life we live everyday. We constantly choose what we find special and toss away things that we don’t. Ms. Beattie masterfully shows us this in this collection. How she makes it look so easy is what makes it so special.