I always have trouble writing a blog about a book of short stories. Do I describe the ones I liked best? I don't want to give away too much. Part of what I liked best about the ten stories in Robin Black's “If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This” was that they seemed both familiar and unexpected at the same time.
For example, there's a story (“Harriet Elliot”) told by a fifth grade girl about a new girl in her class. But it's also about the narrator's own struggles to deal with her disintegrating family. We've all read these stories of childhood unhappiness, but this one approaches it from a different angle. And the all too familiar dynamic of a parent dealing with a teenager leaving the nest is viewed through the lens of a father's reluctant acceptance of a guide dog for his blind daughter (“The Guide”).
Black gives us views of familiar subjects – fidelity, loss, guilt, acceptance – approached in fresh and unexpected ways. Some stories work better than others (I thought the title story “If I Loved You” seemed labored), but I was moved and surprised by all ten.