I call this collection of stories a book of hope, although it's about people who, despite being mostly good, mostly successful, and mostly competent, are living their lives with restriction and self-censorship. Those social niceties and boundaries we all contend with--that we all depend on sometimes--slowly choke that sense of selves and emotional freedom, but even within those limitations these characters find small personal redemptions. I hope to show that so can we all, no matter how alone we may feel. There's a faith demonstrated by these people because they attempt to involve themselves in their worlds even as they struggle to know how.
The opening story is about a man who looks to an external service to improve his life, and finds the service has other plans for him. What follows are stories of isolation, both physically, culturally, and emotionally: men and women in isolation who search for contact and connection with others, maybe not always with success, but always finding a new understanding. There's the Canadian man living in South Korea who takes on the role of observer until the piano playing-woman upstairs and he connect for a brief moment. A bride's fiance and brother go fishing, but end up in a high-stakes negotiation. There's a bored housewife who feels her fading youth and tries to take advantage or her son's friends to get it back. A story about a man who wants to give his dead cat a decent burial is followed by another about a different man's eventual acceptance that he needs to adopt a cat for companionship. The final story follows a group of young college students through a wild night of drinking and civil disobedience as they expend a great deal of effort rejecting the restrictions of their world.
If you're like me and wonder about your place in the world around you, how you participate in it--or even how much you ought to be involved--then I recommend this to you.