Life-changing moments. Impassioned encounters. Twelve stories at the crossroads of heartbreak and desire.
When a long-lost love comes knocking, a loyally wedded rancher is tempted by old passions. A bartender wrestling with sobriety is pushed to the edge by a familiar barfly. After her husband's death, a famous composer struggles to write a single note. From international flights to hidden grottoes and a nude beach, twelve wayward souls seek to satisfy their deepest hungers and escape their fears. Body Language explores our often-misguided quest for happiness and connection.
If you like vulnerable explorations of carnal cravings, challenging moral quandaries, and transformative self-reflection, then you'll love these heartbreaking and unforgettable portraits of people yearning for the solace of human touch.
Read Body Language to embrace all that binds us today!
Through the characters’ conflicts and revelations, MacDonald makes wider points about human nature. In “Hunger,” a self-sufficient narrator compares her seatmate on a first-class flight to the bullies she remembers from high school. When there aren’t enough first-class meals to go around, the elderly woman cries in “big, gulping sobs,” like the “thin-skinned, fragile girls with no defenses [who] grew up and never learned to fend for themselves.” In “Year by Year,” as Rolf dons his CVS assistant manager badge, his mother, Klara, notes that he is “so proud of so little.” Klara’s children are a disappointment to her; even worse, they want to move her into a nursing home. MacDonald paints an understanding portrait of a prickly older parent whose fears about her friends dying are partly rooted in her inability to make new ones “at my age.” In “Mongoose,” Gwen, testy and estranged from her dying father and his fourth wife, softens as her misconceptions about her father fade away. When her stepmother remarks, “There’s a lot of him in you,” Gwen looks at a photo of herself at age six, noting they share “bristly, fearless, determined” natures.
Not all of MacDonald’s well-wrought characters inhabit stories worth telling. In “Ink” and “The Memory Palace,” characters fail to connect with one another, mixing so much like oil and water that the result is dissonance and reader frustration. Luckily, those two entries are outliers. This strong collection draws the reader in with sympathetic portrayals of aging and human connection.
Takeaway: This collection will suit fans of contemporary short fiction with a focus on human connection, aging, and mortality.
Great for fans of Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness, Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: C+
MacDonald reads the room in each story and sees not just the postures and worn shoes of their inhabitants, but also their inner states. Throughout this collection, she builds many such rooms for her readers to survey, populated by people whose body language speaks volumes. The fictional worlds are fully fleshed-out, and the stories' wide-ranging premises and subtle endings yield a sense of wonder.