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Where the God of Love Hangs Out: Fiction

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Love, in its many forms and complexities, weaves through this collection by Amy Bloom, the New York Times bestselling author of Away. Bloom's astonishing and astute new work of interconnected stories illuminates the mysteries of passion, family, and friendship. Propelled by Bloom's dazzling prose, unmistakable voice, and generous wit, Where the God of Love Hangs Out takes u Love, in its many forms and complexities, weaves through this collection by Amy Bloom, the New York Times bestselling author of Away. Bloom's astonishing and astute new work of interconnected stories illuminates the mysteries of passion, family, and friendship. Propelled by Bloom's dazzling prose, unmistakable voice, and generous wit, Where the God of Love Hangs Out takes us to the margins and the centers of real people's lives, exploring the changes that love and loss create. A young woman is haunted by her roommate's murder; a man and his daughter-in-law confess their sins in the unlikeliest of places. In one quartet of interlocking stories, two middle-aged friends, married to others, find themselves surprisingly drawn to each other, risking all while never underestimating the cost. In another linked set of stories, we follow mother and son for thirty years as their small and uncertain family becomes an irresistible tribe. Insightful, sensuous, and heartbreaking, these stories of passion and disappointment, life and death, capture deep human truths. As The New Yorker has said, "Amy Bloom gets more meaning into individual sentences than most authors manage in whole books." William and Clare. Your borders, your rivers, your tiny villages -- I love to see you coming, I hate to see you go -- The old impossible -- Compassion and mercy -- Between here and here -- Permafrost -- Lionel and Julia. Sleepwalking -- Night vision -- Light into dark -- Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous -- By-and-by -- Where the god of love hangs out


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Love, in its many forms and complexities, weaves through this collection by Amy Bloom, the New York Times bestselling author of Away. Bloom's astonishing and astute new work of interconnected stories illuminates the mysteries of passion, family, and friendship. Propelled by Bloom's dazzling prose, unmistakable voice, and generous wit, Where the God of Love Hangs Out takes u Love, in its many forms and complexities, weaves through this collection by Amy Bloom, the New York Times bestselling author of Away. Bloom's astonishing and astute new work of interconnected stories illuminates the mysteries of passion, family, and friendship. Propelled by Bloom's dazzling prose, unmistakable voice, and generous wit, Where the God of Love Hangs Out takes us to the margins and the centers of real people's lives, exploring the changes that love and loss create. A young woman is haunted by her roommate's murder; a man and his daughter-in-law confess their sins in the unlikeliest of places. In one quartet of interlocking stories, two middle-aged friends, married to others, find themselves surprisingly drawn to each other, risking all while never underestimating the cost. In another linked set of stories, we follow mother and son for thirty years as their small and uncertain family becomes an irresistible tribe. Insightful, sensuous, and heartbreaking, these stories of passion and disappointment, life and death, capture deep human truths. As The New Yorker has said, "Amy Bloom gets more meaning into individual sentences than most authors manage in whole books." William and Clare. Your borders, your rivers, your tiny villages -- I love to see you coming, I hate to see you go -- The old impossible -- Compassion and mercy -- Between here and here -- Permafrost -- Lionel and Julia. Sleepwalking -- Night vision -- Light into dark -- Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous -- By-and-by -- Where the god of love hangs out

30 review for Where the God of Love Hangs Out: Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    da AL

    The fine writing and audiobook reader compelled me to finish this. But for all the 'love the unloveable' vibe I got from it, for all of my really wanting to love this book, I just couldn't. The characters had interesting moments, but mostly I didn't like them, I felt sorry for them, and they depressed me. The night after I was done, the book gave me nightmares. The fine writing and audiobook reader compelled me to finish this. But for all the 'love the unloveable' vibe I got from it, for all of my really wanting to love this book, I just couldn't. The characters had interesting moments, but mostly I didn't like them, I felt sorry for them, and they depressed me. The night after I was done, the book gave me nightmares.

  2. 5 out of 5

    christa

    DISCLAIMER I'm not much on short stories, and I'll admit that I'm using a generalization here, but so many of them are too something. Like contrived edginess for the sake of being edgy. Like a tribal tattoo on the small of your back, but you don't know what the symbol means. And other times they just don't feel satisfying. They require the same level of commitment as dating someone who is moving in a week: Enough time for a fling to create the illusion that he doesn't crap, but not enough time to DISCLAIMER I'm not much on short stories, and I'll admit that I'm using a generalization here, but so many of them are too something. Like contrived edginess for the sake of being edgy. Like a tribal tattoo on the small of your back, but you don't know what the symbol means. And other times they just don't feel satisfying. They require the same level of commitment as dating someone who is moving in a week: Enough time for a fling to create the illusion that he doesn't crap, but not enough time to learn his favorite flavor of Doritos. SO WHY READ THIS ONE? A friend tweeted something about it. What she tweeted, I don't remember. But it was enough to pique my interest, so I picked it up the next time I went book shopping. AND? This knocked my socks off. WHAT'S IN IT? Bloom's collection includes two sets of serial short stories that are linked, which I like because it was like this weird middle ground between short story and novel. Almost novellas. So gets to see the stories through to their heartbreaking conclusions. Again, again, again, and again. In the first, William and Clare are BFFs, but married to other people, a foursome that spends a lot of time together. A little bumbly fumbly while watching CNN turns into a full fledged fling, and eventually marriage. In the other, Julia and her stepson turn go all hot pants on each other while mourning the death of Julia's husband, Lionel's dad. This one emotional, drunken decision has three more stories worth of ramifications. WHAT'S SO BIG ABOUT IT The characters. The chronically ill William has a foot that Clare believes looks like a turnip. The moment where Lionel first appears in Julia's doorway, his briefs hanging off his "high skinny hips," and you know, you KNOW what's going to happen if these two aren't careful. And, they aren't. In "Between Here and There," Bloom creates this fantastic scene where an asshole-of-a-father (the kind of guy who, when his son comes out to him, says "A fat fag? Not much fun in that") seemingly makes a personality turnaround. Bloom writes it in a way that makes the new personality seem so fragile, like it could shift back to the old way if the wind blew. Also, there is this great moment in the title story where a man who is in love with a waitress goes to an out of the way bar and runs into his daughter-in-law. They have this conversation about the life she's had, and he in turn, unsolicited, tells her of a homosexual experience -- well, three years worth, actually -- that he had for money in college. "If not for him, I would have had to drop out of college." CONCLUSION Damn, she's good.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    A very middle-of-the-road story collection. Each story was about a different love affair and many of the stories overlapped with the same characters. I found I didn’t love or hate any of the stories, just so-so overall.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Disappointing, because her first collection of stories was so stunning and original. A bookjacket-reviewer said something like, "She packs more into a single sentence than most writers put into an entire novel." I wholeheartedly agree, even here, with this odd collection of forced and stale material. Read one sentence and you're sucked right into another world. Depite its shortcomings, Bloom continues to be a wonderful writer here, who is still exploring surprising subjects with an unflinching a Disappointing, because her first collection of stories was so stunning and original. A bookjacket-reviewer said something like, "She packs more into a single sentence than most writers put into an entire novel." I wholeheartedly agree, even here, with this odd collection of forced and stale material. Read one sentence and you're sucked right into another world. Depite its shortcomings, Bloom continues to be a wonderful writer here, who is still exploring surprising subjects with an unflinching and affectionate curiosity. You'll find some of her old, classic stories in this collection, followed by newly written sequels. The sequels pale in comparison. There's one brand new cluster of stories about a suprising, middle aged infidelity and its consequences that's really absorbing. There's also an odd, completely morbid story that takes place in phone conversations between the mother and the college roomate of a dead girl. It never really takes off, never finds a place of transcendence or takes us to a new place. If you haven't read Amy Bloom before, I'd suggest you start with "Love is not a Pie."

  5. 4 out of 5

    rachel

    "We were never lovers. We just had sex," she says. But it is not what she believes. They were lovers just as ugly babies are still babies." As it turns out, Amy Bloom describes this book of Amy Bloom's in the best way possible. Or at least, it is the best way to describe the two major stories, more like novellas, each told in four acts. In the first story of the "William and Claire" sequence, two married, middle-aged platonic teacher friends -- she a bit neurotic and he morbidly obese -- start fo "We were never lovers. We just had sex," she says. But it is not what she believes. They were lovers just as ugly babies are still babies." As it turns out, Amy Bloom describes this book of Amy Bloom's in the best way possible. Or at least, it is the best way to describe the two major stories, more like novellas, each told in four acts. In the first story of the "William and Claire" sequence, two married, middle-aged platonic teacher friends -- she a bit neurotic and he morbidly obese -- start fooling around one night while watching the evening news. From there, they embark on an affair that never ends. Both of them have beautiful spouses but are still drawn to each other past reason. The following three stories describe their relationship's evolution over time, especially as regards his deteriorating health. It's sweet. Insofar as infidelity can ever be sweet, I guess. The second major story sequence, "Lionel and Julia," is the origin of the quote that opens this review. It's about a young stepmother who loses her famous musician husband and then sleeps with her 19 year old stepson in a moment of very poor judgment. The first story in the sequence is expertly drawn, as you start to get a little sense that there's a little more than motherly intimacy in the way Julia comforts Lion over his father's death, the way he cries against her leg. And he looks her in the eye when she accidentally sees him naked in the shower and you know that this is heading for a bad place (she threw him birthday parties when he was in eighth grade! Gross!) and then it gets there. And the rest of the stories discuss the fallout. The common thread of both of these story sequences is what it is like to grow old with the vastly imperfect person you love, the paths that the history of your love will take whether or not you are together -- suggesting that by your love you are always linked. This strong narrative connection between the two stories is why the four standalones, which each take on a different type of love -- love (or lack of it) for parents, love for those we are in service to, love of the memory of those who have died young -- can seem a little disjointed. I could have read more relationship sequences, even if the people were both beautiful and, y'know, not related. Thematically they didn't have to be the same! I am an Amy Bloom fan, I think.

  6. 4 out of 5

    tee

    "Amy Bloom gets more meaning into individual sentences than most authors manage in whole books." - The New Yorker But for 'most authors' I'd like to substitute 'Jonathon Franzen'. Although 'most authors' is entirely accurate, I'm endeavouring to slip a bit of Franzen hate in whatever chance I get. You can imagine how tiring I am in real life. If only authors like Bloom got just a teensy bit of the hands-down-the-pants love that Franzen gets then, fuck, I don't know the world would be a better pla "Amy Bloom gets more meaning into individual sentences than most authors manage in whole books." - The New Yorker But for 'most authors' I'd like to substitute 'Jonathon Franzen'. Although 'most authors' is entirely accurate, I'm endeavouring to slip a bit of Franzen hate in whatever chance I get. You can imagine how tiring I am in real life. If only authors like Bloom got just a teensy bit of the hands-down-the-pants love that Franzen gets then, fuck, I don't know the world would be a better place or something trite like that. Bloom writes things like 'who will ever love me in this deep, narrow, greedy way.' I love her characters, her stories and the way she writes about food. I was fucking hungry throughout most of this book even when I had already eaten. I need to re-read Portia DeRossi's autobiography to whip my mind back into shape. I love Bloom. I don't even care if you don't because that means I get her all to myself. Which in the end is all that matters. Me with Bloom cooking me sweet treats in my kitchen. Then I send her to the study to write me stories. I'd change my name to Katherine-Anne, so after Amy and I got married, I'd be KA Bloom. And I'd make her say it all the time becaues it'd be really cute; have you seen her author's photo? She's a babe. We'd own little miniature piglets and live near the ocean. I'd hire Franzen as a housemaid to clean up the piglet's droppings and massage my feet. Idyllic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I really, really disliked this book. It seems that the more books that I read by Amy Bloom the less I like her books, and I don't know if that's because I just started with the best rated ones, so they legitimately got worse as I went on or if she just wore me down. This book was a book of short stories composed of 2 sets of short stories, each with its own reoccurring characters, and a few extra short stories thrown in. I really hated all of the stories in the sets. The extra stories were more o I really, really disliked this book. It seems that the more books that I read by Amy Bloom the less I like her books, and I don't know if that's because I just started with the best rated ones, so they legitimately got worse as I went on or if she just wore me down. This book was a book of short stories composed of 2 sets of short stories, each with its own reoccurring characters, and a few extra short stories thrown in. I really hated all of the stories in the sets. The extra stories were more of a range from bad to mediocre, except for the last story, which was nice (not great but nice enough). The main characters were all either so unlikable or so flat as to be completely unengaging. Maybe the flat comes off as slightly mysterious or aloof the first time, but I just could not engage with them. Especially in a short story format. And the reoccurring characters were just awful, unlikable people. The whole focus of the stories was on some terrible thing that they did. So that even if they might be decent people/characters, the events that could show those facets of their character and would engage you and allow you to really connect to them are not the main features of the story. It's just an entire book of heart ache, and woe, and selfishness, and ruin. I do not understand the appeal. It put me in an awful mood from start to finish. I hope I remember to never try an Amy Bloom book again no matter how much I liked the first one, because the first one (Away) was not good enough to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathie Giorgio

    Amazing. Does that say enough? I picked it up, I read the first sentence, and that was all she wrote. Well, no, she wrote much, much more, and I loved it all. In particular, I love the story series that started with "Sleepwalking" and ended with "Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous". The stories stay with this same odd little family - beginning with a widow sleeping with her newly adult stepson as they both try to handle grief - all the way through years until the widow's death. That first story, "Sle Amazing. Does that say enough? I picked it up, I read the first sentence, and that was all she wrote. Well, no, she wrote much, much more, and I loved it all. In particular, I love the story series that started with "Sleepwalking" and ended with "Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous". The stories stay with this same odd little family - beginning with a widow sleeping with her newly adult stepson as they both try to handle grief - all the way through years until the widow's death. That first story, "Sleepwalking", is possibly one of the most perfect short stories I've ever read. It's like driving by a car accident - you don't want to watch, but you have to, and you can't help but picture yourself in the same situation. The characters in all of the stories are sharply drawn. You know them all. You can see them, smell them, hear them when they speak. And each story comes to a sound ending. They don't trail off, leaving you wondering if a page got accidentally left out of the book. But they do leave you speechless. Fabulous.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jaime

    Amy Bloom is one of my favorite contemporary authors. She achieves things that I have only dreamed of. For example, the first thing I thought of after reading this collection of short stories was, "Damn. Now THAT is how you write a story about an extra-martial affair." Amy Bloom is one of my favorite contemporary authors. She achieves things that I have only dreamed of. For example, the first thing I thought of after reading this collection of short stories was, "Damn. Now THAT is how you write a story about an extra-martial affair."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    More like 4.5 stars. This is easily the best book I've read this year, maybe the best book I've read in a while. This is the kind of book you buy even though you have read the library's copy because you want to keep it close to you. There are a handful of stand-alone stories and two sets of four stories that follow a group of people over time; one set (William and Clare) is about an adulterous couple and one (Lionel and Julia) is about a stepmother and her adoptive family. The second set had a s More like 4.5 stars. This is easily the best book I've read this year, maybe the best book I've read in a while. This is the kind of book you buy even though you have read the library's copy because you want to keep it close to you. There are a handful of stand-alone stories and two sets of four stories that follow a group of people over time; one set (William and Clare) is about an adulterous couple and one (Lionel and Julia) is about a stepmother and her adoptive family. The second set had a scene early on between stepmother and step-son that almost made me quit reading but I continued after skipping over a paragraph or two. I hesitate to mention this and turn potential readers off but as other reviews reference it, I did want to encourage them to keep going as this quartet of stories is amazing and heart-breaking and so worthwhile. Bloom has such wisdom about and sympathy for the human condition that without trying to sound sappy, I'll just say that this book will make you feel things. And if you haven't discovered Amy Bloom yet, this is where you should literally drop what you are doing and remedy that.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    A somewhat interesting collection of short stories - some stories relating to the previous one; some just a story on it's own. A bit on the dull side. Amy Bloom's style of writing did not completely capture me but I continued on to the end and am glad I did. I was also glad it was a library book and not one I purchased. A somewhat interesting collection of short stories - some stories relating to the previous one; some just a story on it's own. A bit on the dull side. Amy Bloom's style of writing did not completely capture me but I continued on to the end and am glad I did. I was also glad it was a library book and not one I purchased.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cait S

    This started out really well. I loved the first story, I really liked the second story, I enjoyed the third story, and from there I would rather have had repeated root canals with hardly any pain management than keep reading. Good god, dull doesn't even touch it. A serious case of don't fix what isn't broken I guess. This started out really well. I loved the first story, I really liked the second story, I enjoyed the third story, and from there I would rather have had repeated root canals with hardly any pain management than keep reading. Good god, dull doesn't even touch it. A serious case of don't fix what isn't broken I guess.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alex Roberts

    An extraordinary, compassionate collection of stories. Laced with a romantic spirit yet anything but soft. In these tales, Love- as it will do- insists on sacrifice, regrets and compromise, and will occasionally concede a small dose of comfort or satisfaction here and there to prolong the game. Two quartets of internally linked tales steal the thunder here. The first follows a late in life change of partners within a circle of friends in academe. Tender and mature, this initial series sets a ref An extraordinary, compassionate collection of stories. Laced with a romantic spirit yet anything but soft. In these tales, Love- as it will do- insists on sacrifice, regrets and compromise, and will occasionally concede a small dose of comfort or satisfaction here and there to prolong the game. Two quartets of internally linked tales steal the thunder here. The first follows a late in life change of partners within a circle of friends in academe. Tender and mature, this initial series sets a reflective tone about the undertow often lurking among companionable pairs of couples and the things that come to matter most as life wears on. The second series stands out also, with one evening's amorous transgression putting a fateful and lingering stamp on the lives of a stepmother and stepson. These are characters that are vivid, flawed and complicated. The stand-alone stories, though equally compelling, can't quite match the cumulative richness of the story clusters which constitute the core of the book. Thoroughly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Bloom's background in psychology gives her amazing insight into the human psyche, which she uses to full advantage in these lovely, mesmerizing stories, written with sympathy and wisdom. The critics seemed genuinely surprised that there could be any uncharted territory in the world of love, but Bloom adeptly maps the human heart without sentimentality or cliché. They lavished praise on her deeply affecting prose and "uncommonly fully formed" characters (New York Times), admiring her use of indiv Bloom's background in psychology gives her amazing insight into the human psyche, which she uses to full advantage in these lovely, mesmerizing stories, written with sympathy and wisdom. The critics seemed genuinely surprised that there could be any uncharted territory in the world of love, but Bloom adeptly maps the human heart without sentimentality or cliché. They lavished praise on her deeply affecting prose and "uncommonly fully formed" characters (New York Times), admiring her use of individual but connected stories to explore their dilemmas in greater detail over the years. Considered by the Miami Herald to be Bloom's best collection yet, these rich and wonderfully perceptive stories don't just echo life but invoke it in all its beautiful intensity. This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I had seen this book on the Goodreads giveaway page awhile back, and although I entered, I am so glad I did not win the giveaway. Thank goodness this is a library book I can take back! The book was told in several small stories which I was not expecting. I was a bit thrown by the format because some chapters were related and there was a break in the book to let the reader know a new story was starting. However some chapters that followed were not a continuation of the preceding chapter so it thre I had seen this book on the Goodreads giveaway page awhile back, and although I entered, I am so glad I did not win the giveaway. Thank goodness this is a library book I can take back! The book was told in several small stories which I was not expecting. I was a bit thrown by the format because some chapters were related and there was a break in the book to let the reader know a new story was starting. However some chapters that followed were not a continuation of the preceding chapter so it threw me for a loop. I have never read any of Amy Bloom's books, so I did not know what to expect. The style of writing was also hard for me to get into. I have to say that I skimmed the last 1/4 of the book, which I never do. Some parts kept me reading, and then later on, I was wondering when the story will end. I would not recommend this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Richter

    My God, it's a rare thing indeed to read a collection of short stories and enjoy every single one. But I did here, especially the William and Clare stories. Bloom is a masterful writer. My first encounter with Amy Bloom's writing was her novel Away, and really hoped I could enjoy her short stories as much. I am glad I hadn't read her in literary journals and earlier books before this though, as some had been previously published. I do think I will check out her backlist though. My God, it's a rare thing indeed to read a collection of short stories and enjoy every single one. But I did here, especially the William and Clare stories. Bloom is a masterful writer. My first encounter with Amy Bloom's writing was her novel Away, and really hoped I could enjoy her short stories as much. I am glad I hadn't read her in literary journals and earlier books before this though, as some had been previously published. I do think I will check out her backlist though.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hendo

    Interesting collection of short stories--can't touch Away, but I'm not sure much can. Some of the stories were longer, including chapters almost, which I didn't really care for. I'd rather see a whole story than an extended snippet, but it was interesting. Lots of "mature love," which is a little gross, but I'll be old someday, I guess...just don't really like reading about that now. Interesting collection of short stories--can't touch Away, but I'm not sure much can. Some of the stories were longer, including chapters almost, which I didn't really care for. I'd rather see a whole story than an extended snippet, but it was interesting. Lots of "mature love," which is a little gross, but I'll be old someday, I guess...just don't really like reading about that now.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kiara Adir

    Oh my goodness Amy Bloom I just fell in love with you. I can't believe I've gone so long without you! I don't tend to be the biggest short story fan. But each story stood on its own spectacularly - and to have them tie together in a series was just too much for my brain. Such sharply drawn characters. Unconventional love stories. Even when I was recoiling I was sucked in. Bravo! Oh my goodness Amy Bloom I just fell in love with you. I can't believe I've gone so long without you! I don't tend to be the biggest short story fan. But each story stood on its own spectacularly - and to have them tie together in a series was just too much for my brain. Such sharply drawn characters. Unconventional love stories. Even when I was recoiling I was sucked in. Bravo!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    http://www.tkreviews.org/#/where-the-... In American culture, the various kinds of human love—romantic or familial for instance—come with socially acceptable norms and responsibilities. The ultimate customary expression of romantic love is marriage between two well-matched people. In a conventional demonstration of familial love, children are expected to care for their elderly parents. But what happens when two old friends who are married to other people realize that they are soul mates? Or when http://www.tkreviews.org/#/where-the-... In American culture, the various kinds of human love—romantic or familial for instance—come with socially acceptable norms and responsibilities. The ultimate customary expression of romantic love is marriage between two well-matched people. In a conventional demonstration of familial love, children are expected to care for their elderly parents. But what happens when two old friends who are married to other people realize that they are soul mates? Or when a daughter struggles with her sense of duty to care for her elderly father who verbally and emotionally abused her as a child? In Where the Love of God Hangs Out (Random House, $15.00), Amy Bloom explores that darker, more complicated side of love. The short story collection features two sets of linked stories and four that stand on their own. Amy Bloom is at her best in the short story form, and this book showcases her considerable talents to reveal the highs and the lows, the joys and sorrows of human relationships. The first four linked stories are about Clare and William, old friends who realize they’re willing to risk everything—including their marriages and the disapproval of their adult children—to be together. Even from the very first line of the first story as they watch CNN on the couch after their respective spouses have gone to bed early (“At two o’clock in the morning, no one is to blame”), their adulterous affair is presented in a compassionate light. Bloom explores mature love here—the type of love in the second half of life, when passion in marriage has faded, and companionate and deep connection becomes more powerful than finding a partner based on sexual attraction or societal status. Bloom masterfully presents Clare and William as complex characters (she is described as having a “squinty, unyielding nature,” while he is a large English man with “beautiful manners”), and describes the affinity between them with sparkling passages. Even the act of sharing a peach becomes an example of the sensual, comfortable, and even pathetic nature of their relationship: “Claire twists the nectarine sharply, and it falls into halves, each one a brilliant, glazed yellow with a prickled hot-pink center. The pit falls into her lap. They eat their halves and watch each other eat, and they drip, just a little on the quilt.” When they give in to their feelings and divorce their spouses, the conclusion seems to be that perhaps love can conquer all—all misgivings, all sense of moral behavior, and even mortality (when William dies, Claire keeps a routine that makes his memory very much alive for her). In the best of the stand alone stories, “Between Here and Here,” Bloom shows she can be funny when the subject matter is tough—a young boy reacts to his father’s emotional and verbal abuse by “[drawing] cartoon weather maps of my father’s feelings: dark clouds of I Hate You, giving way to the sleet of Who Are You, pierced by bolts of Black Rage.” In this story, when the young boy’s sister is with their father for the last days of his life many years later, Bloom examines if filial duty can overcome a strong sense of hate. The second linked quartet of stories begin with a shocking premise and another mismatched couple: a white widow named Julia whose husband, a famous black jazz musician has just died, sleeps with her nineteen year old stepson the day after his father’s funeral. Soon after, Lionel, the stepson, moves to Paris, and Julia is wracked with guilt about the event, acknowledging to herself that she may have ruined his life. She hopes distance will be best for her son: “When I was a lifeguard at camp, they taught us how to save panicky swimmers. The swimmers don’t realize they have to let you save them, that their terror will drown you both, and so sometimes, they taught us, you have to knock the person out to bring him in to shore.” A combination of motherly love, romantic passion and tough love are at work in Julia’s response to her actions and subsequent behavior. A peach also appears in the second set of stories, when Lionel teaches his brother how to please a woman: “Buster gave himself to the peach until there was nothing but exhausted peach skin and bits of yellow fruit clinging to his face.” But besides the similarity between the two sets of linked stories in that they are about unlikely couples and involve a peach, they differ in that the Julia and Lionel stories aren’t as focused as Clare and William’s and there are too many characters in the former (Lionel has a number of wives and girlfriends) to get a real sense of the motivations and fleshed out sense of those women. That said, Bloom's background in social work and psychotherapy allows her to write with honest and fascinating insight into her characters thoughts and feelings. Her characters are flawed, yet they are sympathetic and likeable—and that combination makes each story captivating and engaging, without being overly sentimental or cliché. Like Jhumpa Lahiri, she is a master of the short story form—and just as Unaccustomed Earth was a masterful follow-up to The Namesake—Bloom’s Where the God of Love Hangs Out is a welcome return to short stories after Away, her novel. As someone once said, “We do not choose love, love chooses us.” The stories in this collection depict the unlikely occasions where love can transform two—by society’s standards—oddly matched people.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Thom (T.E.)

    Fair warning: Amy Bloom is a writer that some readers--including many avid readers, bright readers--simply will not "get." Anyone whose appreciation of book reading is based on the experience of opening the book and then, within 30 pages, knowing which genre traditions (even those of "literary fiction") will serve as your guide and mitigate any confusion should just cross Bloom off your list. She's not a minimalist--although her genius resembles that style, and she's one of the great contemporary Fair warning: Amy Bloom is a writer that some readers--including many avid readers, bright readers--simply will not "get." Anyone whose appreciation of book reading is based on the experience of opening the book and then, within 30 pages, knowing which genre traditions (even those of "literary fiction") will serve as your guide and mitigate any confusion should just cross Bloom off your list. She's not a minimalist--although her genius resembles that style, and she's one of the great contemporary short-story writers. I'd say that she's the foremost expert on what *doesn't* need to go into a story. Yet in a typical 18-page story she's had time for expository factoid paragraphs, diverting sidebars, sometimes even misdirection--and she almost always limns full-blooded characters with quirks and pains and pangs, and humor and pathos. Bloom is also a great chronicler (or should I say "celebrant"? It's hard to tell, because instead of slipping in judgments she leaves these things in our laps.) of alternatives to the most traditional of familial relationships and structures. Her people are normal, or close enough: but life's experiences or the luck of birthplace and kin or whatever will often put a situation or opportunity in front of them that is intriguing: sometimes of itself, and sometimes in the character's gradual or sudden reactions. Like previous collections "Come to Me" and "A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You," this book is a great gift for readers who like to think about why certain lines or exchanges or descriptions are chosen for inclusion while others are not. It's substantial and enjoyable writing for readers who don't want to be spoonfed with expository data-dumps and pre-digested determinations of each characters moral standing. What works best about this book: There's a heavy emphasis on middle-age and elder characters and on lifestyles that involve multiple generations. Bloom finds the richness of her characters' experience and how they use it--even when the characters are completely unaware of what is moving them forward (or backward, or keeping them stuck). The internal and external dialogues are real as hell--but not in droning verite. In fact, it may be Bloom's ultimate secret that she completely avoids the widespread notion that to be a convincing realist, one must add lots of detail until the reader feels the grit collecting under their fingernails. What works less well: First of all, the slightly violent story "By-and-By" is only fair, and the other heavily stylized piece ("Permafrost") is only slightly better. These seem like stretching exercises and, though enjoyable because we're in the hands of a master storyteller, are of significantly lower quality than the rest of the collection. Also disappointing: Some of the linked stories here (there are two gatherings of four stories each with shared characters) were brought in from earlier collections. I don't mind that Bloom wants to add new adventures of her/our old friends--but this is a thin book as is, without it being redundant on her earlier books. In popular music today, there are artists now working and productive whose recent pieces are hit-or-miss compared with their glory days. Think Springsteen, think Van Morrison. A fair amount of what they've produced in the last decade or more has their own aging artistry as a subtext even as the the maturing of relationships and the joys of rediscovery and the bemused observations of the wizened become more active themes. Those musicians continue their artistic journey with some of the audience's pleasures becoming more moderated--but also some new perspectives that make the continuance of the active artist-audience exchange so much better than "just play me the hits I remember." Amy Bloom is a writer who shares just this same artistic path as those musical icons. She deserves a much wider audience.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marnie Kaplan

    Upon first finishing this book I wrote in my journal: "There is something magical about finding a new author you love. I'm not sure why I picked up Amy Bloom's latest short story collection. The colorful cover maybe. A recent pattern of reading short story collections possibly. I read the collection on a bus ride from NYC to DC, savoring the language, loving the character development, knowing I'd be requesting all of her works from the library. There are two sections of connected short stories-- Upon first finishing this book I wrote in my journal: "There is something magical about finding a new author you love. I'm not sure why I picked up Amy Bloom's latest short story collection. The colorful cover maybe. A recent pattern of reading short story collections possibly. I read the collection on a bus ride from NYC to DC, savoring the language, loving the character development, knowing I'd be requesting all of her works from the library. There are two sections of connected short stories--the first about middle aged professors who begin having an affair and the second about a white woman, a mother and stepmother to biracial children. In the latter, after her husband's death the woman's stepson seems to fall in love with her (she has been a part of his life since he was twelve). A surprising event occurs which will make some readers uncomfortable. And while it struck me as overly Oedipal and unbelievable, I came to see it as essential to the plot." After initially writing the above paragrah, I learned that some of the Julia (the mother/step mother) and Lionel (the step son) stories were republished from Even a Blind Man Can See I Love You ( an earlier Bloom short story collection). I found it intriguing that Bloom revisited these characters, creating a full arc of family holidays, showing us the character's individual development, the development of the family and the way many things remained the same. I love that these characters were actually revisited over a passage of years. I love Bloom's writing style and can't say enough how much I loved each of her stories. She captures the zeitgeist in her writing. She creates rich and believable characters. She uses language in such novel and evocative ways. Even almost seven months later I can recall specific details and passages. I can remember how happily I savored the language at the beginning of the first story in the collection. When I first finished the collection I actually read the ending of one of the stories a loud to a group of friends gathered for a dinner party because I adored the language so much.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Yelda Basar Moers

    Amy Bloom is a gifted storyteller, a master of her craft, and a writer of what I call approachable and readable short stories. Her prose is refreshing because it’s not as experimental or edgy as many other contemporary short story writers. Her previous collection Come to Me ranks as one of the best I’ve ever read. Her writing is lush, evocative and melodic, like a novel that has been condensed, with enticing and unforgettable characters. Her stories are soulful, brim with color and affection, to Amy Bloom is a gifted storyteller, a master of her craft, and a writer of what I call approachable and readable short stories. Her prose is refreshing because it’s not as experimental or edgy as many other contemporary short story writers. Her previous collection Come to Me ranks as one of the best I’ve ever read. Her writing is lush, evocative and melodic, like a novel that has been condensed, with enticing and unforgettable characters. Her stories are soulful, brim with color and affection, toasty, like sitting fireside with a close friend who breaks all the rules, affairs, unorthodox family and sexual relationships, behavior on the fringe, but who is still very human. Bloom’s latest collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, is well written, tight, her craft is evident, but the stories lack the magic, luster and brilliance of her previous collections. They’re not as raw or revelatory, the voice is not as immediate; the characters don’t stay with you long after you’ve turned the page. The two best stories I found in the collection are Your Borders, Your Rivers, Your Tiny Villages about middle-aged friends who become lovers and then marry to dire consequences, and Sleepwalking about a mother who becomes intimate with her stepson, and the familial dynamic that ensues. The first four stories are linked stories about the previously mentioned couple William and Clare, and Sleepwalking is accompanied by three other linked stories, following the mother Julia and her stepson Lionel throughout the years Bloom’s new story collection was highly praised and reviewed by critics, but for me, a far cry from her signature style.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    I haven't read either of Amy Bloom's two previous collections of short stories but I loved “Away,” her first novel, and jumped at the chance to see what she would do next. As it turns out, three of the four stories in one of the two linked sets in “Where the God of Love Hangs Out” are reprinted from the earlier books. Bloom first wrote about the Sampsons from Julia's perspective, revisited them in stories narrated years later by her step-son and son and looks in once more in the current collecti I haven't read either of Amy Bloom's two previous collections of short stories but I loved “Away,” her first novel, and jumped at the chance to see what she would do next. As it turns out, three of the four stories in one of the two linked sets in “Where the God of Love Hangs Out” are reprinted from the earlier books. Bloom first wrote about the Sampsons from Julia's perspective, revisited them in stories narrated years later by her step-son and son and looks in once more in the current collection on a family that is ethnically diverse, geographically dispersed and bound less by blood than by the heart of a fiercely loving woman. In the second of the linked sets, Clare and William, middle-aged academics and best friends, unexpectedly find themselves falling into a deeper, more intimate relationship that endures through their divorces, marriage to each other and the inexorable frailties of age. The stand-alone stories, while inevitably less memorable, are equally deft and penetrating. Amy Bloom's training and long experience as a psychotherapist clearly inform her understanding of complex emotions and the human condition but her ability to convey those emotions in just a sentence or two or a few words of dialogue is the mark of an accomplished writer. In her stories, the God of love hangs out in some unlikely places and may make you more than a little uncomfortable but you won't soon forget these people and how their lives are shaped by love.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I didn’t intend to read two collections of linked short stories back to back but am glad I did. I was feeling that perhaps I was unduly harsh on my prior review (You Know When the Men are Gone) but this confirmed it for me. The stories in this collection are on an entirely different level. This book is essentially divided into two parts, the first with stories about one couple and the second covering another couple, with the occasional one-off stories thrown in. Amy Bloom’s writing is superb and I didn’t intend to read two collections of linked short stories back to back but am glad I did. I was feeling that perhaps I was unduly harsh on my prior review (You Know When the Men are Gone) but this confirmed it for me. The stories in this collection are on an entirely different level. This book is essentially divided into two parts, the first with stories about one couple and the second covering another couple, with the occasional one-off stories thrown in. Amy Bloom’s writing is superb and there isn’t a trite, clichéd, overused phrase or concept in it. Each tale was fully satisfying, if not somewhat disturbing. I struggled between a 3 and a 4 (the writing itself is a 5) only because when the characters are less than sympathetic they are in a major way. For example, when one character describes a sexual encounter as feeling like giving birth it was extremely disturbing to read (you have to read it to understand what I mean) and it made me very, very wary of her until the very end of her collection. Her section (“Lionel and Julia”) was also more difficult because they kept introducing more and more characters and by the end I couldn’t keep it all straight. Having too many characters in a short story is a bit of a bold move and it didn’t pay off for me. Still, though, this was satisfying and engaging and great for anyone who likes the format.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jacqie

    Amy Bloom is a master of characterization. Her characters are unique, flawed, fascinating people. I'm sure I'd enjoy hanging out with them. She is also great at describing the undertones of love, both positive and negative. From a woman waking in the night next to her husband, finding herself weeping and crying the name of her lover (these people are in their late 50's) to the reluctance of a widow to enter her house, knowing that she will see her dead husband inside after not being able to cont Amy Bloom is a master of characterization. Her characters are unique, flawed, fascinating people. I'm sure I'd enjoy hanging out with them. She is also great at describing the undertones of love, both positive and negative. From a woman waking in the night next to her husband, finding herself weeping and crying the name of her lover (these people are in their late 50's) to the reluctance of a widow to enter her house, knowing that she will see her dead husband inside after not being able to contact him during a business trip, there wasn't a false note that I could find. This book is written as an interlocking series of short stories that tell the progression of love and loss. There are two main sets of characters and the book is broken into sections that feature each set. The reason the book didn't get five stars is that it was so poignant that it gave me bad dreams. Those with more fortitude than I will give it five stars. But fair warning- the book is beautiful but will make you very conscious of the transitory nature of all relationships, whether by choice or not. I'm still trying to keep my blinders on, I guess.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    My Christmas present from Mike. Bloom is great to read if you love Lorrie Moore - the closest thing you can get to the real thing. Bliss. This didn't disappoint on any level. Many of these stories connect in clusters, so you get 3-4 doses of stories about the same set of characters. The effect is that Bloom has sort of written 2 novellas, and thrown in a couple of extra stories too, which suits me fine - her short stories leave me wanting more in the best possible way. Her novel, Away, is absolut My Christmas present from Mike. Bloom is great to read if you love Lorrie Moore - the closest thing you can get to the real thing. Bliss. This didn't disappoint on any level. Many of these stories connect in clusters, so you get 3-4 doses of stories about the same set of characters. The effect is that Bloom has sort of written 2 novellas, and thrown in a couple of extra stories too, which suits me fine - her short stories leave me wanting more in the best possible way. Her novel, Away, is absolutely wonderful... and this is just a great collection. It is really very dark at times, and I had a few nightmares after reading this book right before bed, so beware of that. All of the stories deal with some of the worst, saddest and most unexpectedly ghastly events that life can throw at you, but there is so much here that 'celebrates' life and everything good about it too. The language is blissful, the characters have the familiar flaws of Blooms (and Moore's) earlier stories, and it's just so unexpected, rewarding and truly great. Nothing bad to say about it whatsoever, it's all just very, very good.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carol Ryan

    There is something I like about the length of a short story or a chapter. If it is just right it entertains and enlightens for just the right duration. Sometimes a good short story involves such interesting characters or plot, that a novel is desired. Amy Bloom's book, "Where the God of Love Hangs Out", consists of four sets of stories of characters followed over time, or from different perspectives. It's a good compromise between a novel and a book of unrelated short stories, especially for tho There is something I like about the length of a short story or a chapter. If it is just right it entertains and enlightens for just the right duration. Sometimes a good short story involves such interesting characters or plot, that a novel is desired. Amy Bloom's book, "Where the God of Love Hangs Out", consists of four sets of stories of characters followed over time, or from different perspectives. It's a good compromise between a novel and a book of unrelated short stories, especially for those of us who aren't fans of the short story genre. Two of the sets of stories were compelling enough to expand into novels, I thought. The book explores various situations where love makes fools of the characters by pushing them beyond acceptable norms. Some of the situations make one squeamish. Would I ever do such a thing? I won't disturb the suspense by revealing the plots but there is good writing to enjoy along the way. For example "it's what a desperately hungry person with no taste buds might grab while running through a burning house". You don't need to be desperately hungry to enjoy this book!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    Amy Bloom is one of my favorite authors. Some of her short stories—in Love Invents Us, Come to Me and A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You—are among the best I've ever read. And her latest story collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, is a worthy addition to this list. There are two sets of interrelated stories in this collection and some unrelated ones. The first set chronicles William and Clare, lifelong friends who, unbeknownst to their spouses, are falling in love with each other late Amy Bloom is one of my favorite authors. Some of her short stories—in Love Invents Us, Come to Me and A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You—are among the best I've ever read. And her latest story collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, is a worthy addition to this list. There are two sets of interrelated stories in this collection and some unrelated ones. The first set chronicles William and Clare, lifelong friends who, unbeknownst to their spouses, are falling in love with each other late in life. The stories are told from both William and Clare's points-of-view and see them both through ups and downs. The second set follows Julia, the new widow of a famous jazz musician, and her stepson, Lionel, as they make their ways through life. The other stories touch on various aspects of love, life and relationships, and each is memorable in its own way. Bloom is at her best in this collection. In thinking about these stories, I'm struck by something a reviewer of this book said in Entertainment Weekly: Bloom's writing doesn't stop you in your tracks, but it grabs your heart. I'd agree. Don't miss this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Amy Bloom is one of my favorite short story authors - I prefer her short stories and was not a fan of her novel, "Away." I was particularly excited for this new collection of stories. The excitement was slightly lessened when I started reading, only to discover that four of the stories had previously been published in previous collections of Ms. Bloom's. Bummer. Had I purchased this instead of getting it from the library, I'd have been pretty annoyed. That said, the series of stories about Willi Amy Bloom is one of my favorite short story authors - I prefer her short stories and was not a fan of her novel, "Away." I was particularly excited for this new collection of stories. The excitement was slightly lessened when I started reading, only to discover that four of the stories had previously been published in previous collections of Ms. Bloom's. Bummer. Had I purchased this instead of getting it from the library, I'd have been pretty annoyed. That said, the series of stories about William and Clare was amazing. Wrenching, heartfelt, and set me sobbing by the end of the series. I love her characters, her writing, her stories, and this series highlights her strengths. And even the stories I'd read before were completely worth re-reading and re-visiting. Highly recommended, four stars for the content, three due to the packaging.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I have to say that I was somewhat indifferent to the content of these stories but Amy Bloom writes so well that I could not stop listening. The reader who has won an Audie Award was also very good. These are short stories about the unlikely, messy and undeniable kind of love that IS despite whether it is acceptable or not and ranges from passionate love, to familial bonds and friendship that is deep and lasting. Some of it is pretty uncomfortable especially the tale of a mother and son in law th I have to say that I was somewhat indifferent to the content of these stories but Amy Bloom writes so well that I could not stop listening. The reader who has won an Audie Award was also very good. These are short stories about the unlikely, messy and undeniable kind of love that IS despite whether it is acceptable or not and ranges from passionate love, to familial bonds and friendship that is deep and lasting. Some of it is pretty uncomfortable especially the tale of a mother and son in law that have one passionate night and have to face the repercussions the rest of their lives. Through it all though Bloom's use of language is the selling point for me.

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