"The Loss of all Lost Things" by Amina Gautier

"The Loss of all Lost Things" by Amina Gautier
In one piece of Amina Gautier’s collection, a character sees a glimpse of a second chance, and actually seems to take it. In “Cicero Waiting” a teacher’s wife invites him to bed in a gesture so giving and so touching, that it stands out against the all-too-prominent self-absorption on display elsewhere. In “Cicero Waiting” a couple is trying to survive the loss of their three year-old daughter to kidnapping and murder. The father, who was taking care of the little girl at the time, cannot forgive himself, does not believe he is worthy.

These emotions fill this collection. The extremely human feelings of loss, guilt, regret, anger, and denial fill these pages and are very effectively portrayed. After failed marriages, characters (sometimes) grudgingly admit the possibility of their own partial fault. Others remain peevish or egotistical, or they deny their heritage, or they engage in highly ill-advised liaisons, sometimes even with their exes. The desperate guilt and loss some of these characters feel reaches us as true and authentic. This is Ms. Gautier’s achievement, and the proof of her skill.

The author sets most of these stories against a backdrop of academia, with tenured professors, respected specialists, and struggling graduate students. Ms Gautier does not shy away from depicting prejudice, or resentment, or self-aggrandizement, or confusion among this population - far from it. Her vision for her characters - and her undeniable success - is to set their raw, injured, or imperfect humanity on display.

There is a consistency in these stories. They’re executed well, their themes are set up and displayed succinctly, and some have a power to touch our hearts. And the author shows a solid range of voice and point of view, and she always suits them to her purpose. A solid collection by a young writer whom I will be watching.

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