Music for Wartime: Stories

As the title implies, nearly every piece in Rebecca Makkai's Music for Wartime involves a musician or survivor of conflict. But the title also suggests an underlying theme throughout the stories: the all-too-human attempt to make order and beauty out of chaos. Music, for all its flurry and improvisation, does just that.

The first collection from the author of The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, Music for Wartime shares the quirks of Makkai's previous work, though nicely balances any twee-ness with weighty depictions of illness, death and betrayal. Most relationships in these stories are doomed, usually due to cruelty, and the ones that do survive seem to be founded on the strangest of bedrocks (the best example concerns a Hungarian couple--the husband, a Nazi sympathizer, saved his Jewish future wife from the death camps). Makkai can also be brutally funny, especially in creating outlandish characters who nonetheless feel as though they could exist in reality.

The quality of the pieces is a bit uneven. Here and there small turns of phrase seem overwritten, and a few of the stories rely too heavily on rhetoric ("Everything We Know About the Bomber," a series of facts about a terrorist, is the most egregious example). At worst, the pieces in Music for Wartime are solid, if not remarkable, but standouts "The Miracle Years of Little Fork" and "Good Saint Anthony Come Around" make this collection more than worth picking up. --Noah Cruickshank, marketing manager, Open Books, Chicago, Ill.

Powered by: Xtenit