Thursday, November 19, 2020

Truthtelling: Stories, Fables, Glimpses - Lynne Sharon Schwartz

I’m a little embarrassed to say that even though I enjoyed and was impressed by Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s Leaving Brooklyn when I read it back in June 1992, Truthtelling: Stories, Fables, Glimpses is only the second  thing of hers I’ve read. Schwartz is, after all, the author of twenty-seven books, some of which (including Leaving Brooklyn) have been finalists for major awards such as the National Book Award and the PEN Faulkner Award. How such a fine writer could have completely slipped off my radar screen is beyond me.

Truthtelling is a collection of 25 short stories between three and twenty-something pages long. The title story itself, “Truthtelling,” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize Award, and many of the other stories have been published previously in prestigious collections such as Best American Short Stories 2005 and O. Henry Prize Stories 2015. The collected stories are about ordinary men and women facing up to life the best way they know how as they encounter the kind of problems that are familiar to all of us. As the book’s subtitle suggests, the stories offer the reader intimate glimpses into the lives — and minds — of twenty-five characters not so different from the rest of us. 

There is a story about an elderly couple that has finally reached the age when each deems it safe to confess past sins to the other, one about a man who’s ex-wife figures out the perfect way to make him hurt as much as she does, and another about a woman who betrays the kindness of a stranger on a whim. There are stories about writers, singers, and even one about a concert pianist’s page-turner. Some of the stories are about people whose minds are not functioning quite right, placing them in unique and sometimes embarrassing predicaments. But all the stories are about what it means to be human, and how difficult the struggle can be at times for all of us.

Among my personal favorites is “Am I A Thief,” a story about an almost accidental theft (of a surprising object) inside a darkened movie theater and how the “thief” justifies the strange encounter to herself. Another is one of the longer stories in the collection, a story called “But I Digress…” in which a woman sitting at her father’s deathbed thinks about her father’s life and how his family’s experiences shaped her into who she is. My favorite of them all is also one of the saddest in the collection, a story called “Career Choice” in which a young woman decides that, because of her lack of job skills, there is only one choice open to her: marry an elderly rich man and hope to cash in before too many years go by. 

Bottom Line: Lynne Sharon Schwartz is a brilliant storyteller, and Truthtelling is filled with the kind of stories that will have readers thinking — and talking — about them long after they put the book down. If you are a short story fan, this is one collection you should not miss.

Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Review Copy provided by Publisher


  1. Will I get kicked out of the booklovers club if I admit I've never even heard of Lynne Schwartz until just now? ;D

    1. Great question. I don't understand why she seems to be such a well-kept secret. The stories in this collection are really well written and entertaining despite their "deepness."

  2. Oops, another possible person banned form the booklovers club! I'm not one to read short stories, for the most part, but I like the sound of this book.

    1. It probably does help if you are a fan of short stories, Jen, but some of these are really, really good. Only one story mystified me to the point of wondering what in the world Schwartz was going for. This is my sixth short story collection of the year...pretty much my usual number.