“Breathtaking. . .chillingly beautiful, like postcards from Eden. . .Van Booy’s stories are somehow like paintings the characters walk out of, and keep walking.” -Los Angeles Times In his critically-acclaimed debut collection of short stories, The Secret Lives of People in Love, Simon Van Booy explores the sway of fate and power of memory on the lives of lonely and vulnerable people. With the same spare, economical prose that he brought to his subsequent collection, Love Begins in Winter, winner of the 2009 Frank O’Connor Short Story Award, Van Booy creates a profoundly humane and somber resonance with the assured hand of “a first-rate storyteller” (Newsday). The Secret Lives of People in Love announces the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.
A breadth of experience and setting distinguishes this somber first collection of 18 very short stories by New York-based Van Booy. "Little Birds" is narrated by a teenage boy of uncertain parentage who sketches his life with his devoted foster father, Michel, in working-class Paris: "It is the afternoon of my birthday, but still the morning of my life. I am walking on the Pont des Arts." In "Some Bloom in Darkness," an aging railroad station clerk's witness of a violent scene between a man and woman translates in his mind into an infatuation with a store mannequin. Other tales are set in Rome ("I live in Rome where people sit by fountains and kiss"), small villages in Cornwall or Wales, and in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Van Booy's characters are shipwrecked by fate and memory but tarry on, like the narrator of "Distant Ships," a lifelong Royal Mail loader who stopped speaking after the death of his son 20 years earlier, or the homeless man chased by ghosts in "The Shepherd on the Rock," who aims to "live out the last of my life" at John F. Kennedy International Airport. These tales have at once the solemnity of myth and the offhandedness of happenstance.