In the Garden of the North American Martyrs Review
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The stories in In the Garden of the North American Martyrs have a consistently dark tone to them that will discourage the average reader from finishing the book. While none of them could be called sick or twisted, they do have a strange feeling about them. Although they are very well written short stories, each one is disconcerting on a different level.

Tobias Wolff’s reputation for excellent writing is well deserved, but his type of short stories aren’t going to be read by very many people. This collection is good example of this. These twelve stories are all very well written, but none of them really have that upbeat, feel good ending that popular mass fiction requires.

His characters all have a note of sadness or repulsion. Some elicit p
ity from the reader and maybe even a sigh of relief that they are not your neighbors. None of them evoke any real empathy despite the fact they seem very real. None of the stories reach out to the reader and ask them to think about the point of the story after he or she has put the book down.

And that’s the whole point of literary fiction. To make the reader think and cause him or her to wonder about the things the story talked about. In popular market fiction it’s okay for the reader to simply enjoy the book and then put it away without further thought when the last page has been turned. In Wolff’s chosen genre a book has to be much better than this one in order to be called good.

If you are a fan of Wolff or literary fiction in general then try Back in the World or This Boy’s Life. Both are much better examples of why Wolff has the reputation that he does. I would definitely avoid recommending this book to a friend.

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