Michael Faber is new to me but he's not a new writer: He's written four novels, and Vanilla Bright Like Eminem is his second collection of short stories. If this book is a reflection on his earlier work, then I have some catching up to do.
Faber knows how to tell strange, original tales, all of which are page-turners. In "The Safehouse," a homeless man comes across a shelter where residents are required to wear T-shirts listing their psychiatric histories. In "The Smallness of the Action," a disturbed and depressed young mother keeps dropping and hurting her newborn. She cries out to her husband and even the police for help, but no one seems to be listening.
In "In the Eyes of the Soul," we find a single mom unable to move out of her violent, graffiti-laden neighborhood. She decides to purchase a virtual picture of a living garden to replace her view.In "Someone to Kiss It Better," a hot-tempered husband accidentally kills his wife and then decides to try to cover it up. This decision leads to more killing and a comedy of even more mistakes. In the title story, a father of two, on vacation with his family, experiences the happiest moment of his life — a very moving tale that doesn't slip into sentimentality.
There are 16 stories in Vanilla Bright Like Eminem: Some of the stories are grim, some are light but all are conveyed by a writer who knows his craft extremely well. Many are comparing Faber to the late, great Raymond Carver. While Carver is hard to beat when it comes to storytelling, I have a feeling if he were alive today Faber's excellent collection would be on his bookshelf.