This is one of the most emotionally intense collections of short stories I have ever read. Sometimes I had to fight through tears to keep reading stories like "Chemistry," which is just a crushing piece about realizing too late what it takes to hold a relationship together. The characters in all of these stories are in tough positions. Relationships falling apart. Loved ones lost. Hope fading or already gone. More often than not, the result of their own actions or inaction. But these people still push forward, through bleak Minnesota winters.
Speaking of Minnesota, the setting is as much a character in these stories as the people. Minneapolis and St. Paul are unforgiving, or maybe just ambivalent. Or sometimes, they offer refuge, the only refuge when hope is fading so fast. That's not to say there aren't glimmers of hope. "The Garbage Collector," one of the standouts, along with "Nobody Moves in Winter" and others, find characters discovering something positive to hold onto, if only for a fleeting moment.
The prose in this collection is impeccable, but it's a tough book. It's the kind of book you aren't going to be able to read straight through. It's the kind of book that you'll have to put down every story or two and just catch your breath and pull yourself together before you can move forward. And when you do get to the last page, you're never likely to forget this reading experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed Six Months in the Midwest. Be prepared to meet all kinds of people, all ages of people. Schummer is able to bring people to life on the page, people she apparently has observed and started thinking about imaginatively. Every story, except one, I believe, is in 3rd person. I especially enjoyed "The Parade"; "The Garbage Collector"; "Apron On, Apron Off"; "Nobody Moves in Winter"; and "The In-Between Girl." But they're all involving and definitely worth reading.
Here are characters that breathe, that live. It's almost startling how few pages Schummer requires to evoke the histories of these characters, even if said histories sit teaming under outwardly ordinary surfaces. Betrayals, anxieties, small acts of kindness sit hunched together in the pages, fueling small but profound events. Each story as much a meditation on being human as it is on the snow that falls through lamplight on a Minneapolis winter night -- the city becoming its own aching character. You become tied into these characters -- so beautifully, painstakingly written -- you begin to see small parts of yourself in them: each mistake made, every word uttered, every tire track through slush. Let's face it, we need more literature that evokes the confusion of our lives, of the horrible, beautiful mess. And here it is.
After reading this book, my heart was heavy with love and grief for all the characters in this book. Schummer's writing is so diligent and detailed that you get to know the characters as though they were an old friend from high school. Apron On, Apron Off was read at one of her readings and I found myself hanging on her every word. Schummer's writing is dismal, yet beautiful.
Simply put, these stories are emotive. The characters are written in a way that makes you feel like you could easily switch lives with them. Having recently moved to Central New York from Minneapolis, this book is like having a little piece of home with me. I can picture the neighborhoods and locations as I'm reading. For the first time since leaving, I feel homesick, maybe even missing the Midwest winters.
From the first line,"After a late summer storm, Minneapolis was in a state of mild ache" Darci Schummer captures the essence of the Midwestern city. The author brings to the reader a myriad of people and their "small" yet unfailingly real stories. Often under a suffocating low winter's sky, Schummer brings us closer to understanding those we pass by but rarely see. Highly recommend this author's first book.
Ever wonder who all these people walking around your city are? You'll get to know many of them up close and personal in this consistently moving and intelligent collection of short stories. My favorite is Pretty as a Penny, which explores personal boundaries, social statuses and Sex World in compelling fashion. Be careful biting into Darci Schummer's stories, because sometimes they bite back.
Darci Schummer paints lasting, vivid images with her words. She easily captures her audience in her characters' world from start to finish. Six Months in the Midwest is both a brilliant and haunting collection of short stories.