If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black

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If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
288 pages; Random House
It took me eight years to write the ten stories here, says Robin Black in the acknowledgments of her debut collection, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This. It shows. This book is not a fast read. Rather, it offers the kind of storytelling that's so deft, so understated, and so compelling that you have to slow down to savor each vignette: "Only my old yellow beach chair remains beside that empty space, out of season and left behind, improbably vivid, improbably bright, against the autumn hues, against the failing day." Poetics aside, Black's characters are conventional, like people we know—the soccer mom, the teenage daughter, the guy next door—but their tales vibrate with aberrant energy. In "Gaining Ground," a single mother struggles to make meaning out of the senseless actions of her insane father. It begins: "My dad died on the night my bathwater ran with an electric current in it. Or maybe it was the other way around. My water ran electric on the night my father died." Fans of Mary Gaitskill, Amy Bloom, and Miranda July will feel like they've found gold in a river when they discover Robin Black; she's a nervy new writer to watch.
— Kristy Davis