Book Nook: Love isn't always what it seems to be
The typical collection of love stories is filled with typical moments - hearts thumping with love at first sight and eyes meeting across a crowded room, bouquets, chocolates, passionate embraces.
These are not those love stories. These are not even close.
These are the love stories one would expect to be told in a dark corner of an abandoned courtyard on a cold night. You will not be comforted or warmed by these tales. You will not wish these occurrences on yourself.
Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's Russian love stories in "There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories," are full of lost souls yearning for human connection in a world that seems to be growing dimmer by the moment.
A woman sleeps with a man because she cannot bear to be alone. He is married, uninterested and detached, but she weeps with happiness to have him - to have anyone.
A man and woman grasp desperately for each other after the death of their matchmaker and friend. They realize they are completely and finally, alone. They only want not to be.
Another woman tries on a dress her mother made her because her mother, as most mothers are, is full of hope. And though it is silky and beautiful, the daughter feels it cannot make anything better. What good is a dress when she has nowhere to go? But then, a chance occurrence - a man seeing her in the dress, a little serendipity - maybe, just maybe, the dress will change everything.
The stories in this collection are often quite dark. Etched into these pages are mind-numbing loneliness, abandonment and acceptance. Buried in the dark is the barest flicker of possibility - the slightest hope that somewhere out there is someone who can improve life, even just a little bit.
Though we are faced with the grim reality of these characters and their daily lot, there is something to be said for these stories. They may not make our hearts swoon, but they are compelling in the pure human need embodied in each and every person. We feel for these characters.
We wish that against all odds, they may find something, anything, resembling love.