"Listening In and Other Stories" by Shauna Kelley Review

This book was provided to me by the author via a PDF file in exchange for an honest review through Booktasters.

Listening In and Other Stories is a set of short stories that center around dark themes and features intimate character exploration. Each story is very raw and heartbreaking. The book is written in a very literary style yet also takes on it's own identity. As I read, I was reminded of another short story author, Kristen Arnett.

Several stories in this collection really moved me. The characters felt tangible and very well explored. What I appreciate about this set of stories is the all too apparent exploration of the darkness in everyday life. What may come across as normal in a story by a different author is flipped by Kelley. We see a mother who is too concerned with her own expectations rather than her daughter's mental health. Had this character been in another story, it would center around the mother's inability to help and it would heroicize her for her constant efforts. Many of the characters these stories centered around felt very real and had understandable motivations. On top of this, some stories really affected me. At times I was left feeling disturbed, but in a good way.

All of that being said, several the stories fell a bit flat. While there were many that moved me, others left me wanting, and felt very blah. As mentioned, the book is very literary, but there are many points when it seems to merely imitate the literary sophistication that it is going for. There were several points when it was obvious what the story was trying to go for, but it felt contrived and tiresome.  

Overall, this is a good collection. While it is unable to pack a punch with every narrative, it manages to provide thought provoking stories that haunt you long after you have put this book down.