The Collected Stories by Grace Paley

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Title: The Collected Stories by Grace Paley

Writer: Grace Paley

Publishing House: Virago

Date of Publication: May 3rd 2018 (first published 1994)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Well, by now you must know yourself, honey, whatever you do, life don’t stop. It only sits a minute and dreams a dream.’’

Grace Paley’s stories are unique in their richness, commentary and tenderness in the face of adversities. And by God, we do have enough of those! Social hurdles, prejudices, family obstacles, personal insecurities that freeze us and ‘’disarm’’ us as we drown…She paints a vivid view of New York, the melting pot, the city of cultural diversity, the weariness, the struggle to find a balance between the need to ‘’belong’’ and the urge to protect and preserve your unique cultural heritage. Tradition is often in danger of sinking beneath the current of an era that changes fast. 

These are stories rich in Jewish culture, told in beautiful, direct language.  Daughters, sons, lovers, fathers, mothers, friends, neighbours, gossip and confessions. These are the stories of women and men who love, hate, hope, fear, believe and occasionally reject and despair. Above all, these are the stories of people who bravely rise every morning and dare to dream every night…

It would be impossible for me to refer to each story in the anthology, so here is a brief summary of the ones that have stayed with me:

The Pale Pink Roast: A divorced couple is too afraid to actually admit they still love each other.

The Loudest Voice: A Jewish girl takes part in her school’s Christmas festivities and brings down the house, despite her father’s hesitation.

The Contest: A young man is fooled by an enchanting girl who promises the world.

Faith in the Afternoon: The heated discussion between a father and a daughter over religion, heritage, history, tradition and the time that changes.

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute: A woman finds love much to the surprise (and slight dismay…) of her father.

In the Garden: Two women, one exhausted by her chronic illness and the other in pain over the future of her daughters, comfort each other in a garden, one spring afternoon in the Big Apple.

Beautiful Introduction by George Saunders.

‘’I wanted to stop and admire the long beach. I wanted to stop in order to think admiringly about New York. There aren’t many rotting cities so tan and sandy and speckled with citizens at their salty edges. But I had already spent a lot of life lying down or standing or staring. I had decided to run.’’