By Sandra Novack
Random House, $26.00, 285 pages
The rawness and honesty of Sandra Novack’s Everyone But You is exemplified by its artfully crafted characters. Whether it be through the dying wife and-mother in “Ants” or the idle, suspicious writer of “Save My Soul”, we are exposed to the intimate workings of the narrators’ minds. In this place, complex webs of doubt and regret are ultimately tempered with the blatant and beautiful contradictions of words spoken. Such is life.
“Who knows how many complaints the heart holds, quietly and forever?”
Most of the stories in this collection are first-person narratives, a fact that lends an undeniable self-consciousness to the book as a whole. The self-consciousness is, for the most part, masterfully meted out by Novack; her characters shoulder the weight of their own introspection, grappling to reconcile truths in complex relationships. The well-intentioned Bud of “Memphis” weighs the burden of his volatile, schizophrenic brother against his strained marriage with a resigned helplessness. “At some point”, Bud laments, “it is as though you are suddenly on the other side of your life, looking in on it as though it were a spectacle.” Likewise, if there is any weakness in Novack’s stories, it may be blamed on this same championing of the ego, the occasional flat paragraph where one can’t help but wish for certain plot details to materialize with less direct personal explication. This, however, does not detract from the fascination nor the poignancy in which these tales are steeped.
Reviewed by Lauren Papalia