Evan Carlson’s Book Review

tenth of dec

Windows into the Mind

Evan Carlson

“What? Alison? Raped? Killed? Oh God. Raped and killed while I innocently made my railroad town, sitting cross-legged and unaware on the floor like a tiny little–” thinks young Kyle Boot as he witnesses the kidnapping of his neighbor Alison Pope in “Victory Lap”, the first of Saunders’ short stories. This tale, one of the most captivating in the anthology, is told from three different perspectives: that of Kyle, a heroic adolescent suffering from Tourette Syndrome, of Alison, a young playful ballet dancer, and that of her kidnapper. Narration in “Victory Lap” switches abruptly between these three perspectives, revealing each character’s thoughts during the abduction. Kyle, adored by his family and singled out as different by classmates, is faced with a decision between following the anti-interventionist advice that his parents have given him since birth and saving the life of Alison, a girl for whom he has affection. This story, a contemporary David versus Goliath, simultaneously provides insight into the minds of a kidnapper and a young boy with a neurological disorder.

In each of his tales, Saunders plunges us into the minds of his characters, revealing the story’s background and plot through their thoughts. “The Semplica Girl Diaries”, features a father’s journal recounting the story of his family, struggling to make ends meet in an affluent neighborhood of the future. It is a tale of materialism, luck and human compassion that all readers can identify with.

Saunders’ fantastic storytelling ability leads us to connect with his characters and experience what they experience as if we were present. His stories are so vivid and lifelike that we feel as if they are unfolding right before our eyes. In “Home”, a disoriented veteran in a deteriorated mental state struggles to reintegrate into society after having spent years away at war. We, the readers, are able to experience this ex-soldier’s disorientation for ourselves when he describes unrecognizable material goods from the future for sale at a gas station market.

Every story in the anthology is a fascinating study of human nature explored through the perspective of a character that thinks and functions differently. Saunders displays the inner workings of his characters’ minds, carefully enveloped in intriguing plots of kidnapping, suicide and reintegration into society. His style of placing us in the midst of his characters’ thoughts does, however, inevitably lead to some confusion, especially as he jumps unannounced from the mind of one character to another. Whether or not you enjoy character studies, you will surely find yourself lost in the excitement of Saunders’ truly remarkable Tenth of December.

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