"The UnAmericans: Stories" by Molly Antopol, review by Sarah Bagby
Named by the National Book Foundation as one of 5 authors under 35 to watch Molly Antopole has distinguished herself as master of the short story in her debut collection: The UnAmericans: Stories.
Antopole’s stories redefine the trope of immigrants relocating to America for political reasons. The humanity and vulnerability of these characters show how the universal dynamics of family legacy and romantic love are equally nurturing, distancing, tender, and messy.
In “Duck and Cover” Judy works in an LA diner where her father sits in the same booth and has the same conversations every day. He imagines this scenario in perpetuity while Judy can only think about getting out. A rebellious action designed to get her father’s attention is stultified when the police raid the diner to arrest her father for un-American activity. Judy watches as he passes by, hands clasped in cuffs. She remains invisible--as she has always been.
Daniela, in “The Quietest Man” has her play accepted for production in NYC. Her father, Tomas, deeply fears the family story will be of his failures as a family man and father. When the perspective of the play is revealed, Tomas is relieved, and then rattled by Daniela’s heartbreaking need to be an integral part of his dissident past. Sometimes closeness is best achieved in the lies we tell ourselves and others.
“Retrospective” is a powerful end to the collection. Peter weds Mira, an academic colleague above his rank. He innocently assumes his permanent place in her formidable, stylish, and worldly family. After the inevitable divorce, Peter loses everything: he is not a husband, and most profound, his familial identity is completely shattered. Oblivious of the betrayal, Mira’s family asks him to represent their family at an international gala honoring their recently deceased Matriarch.
Molly Antopole is a writer to watch; her characters come alive in a phrase, they connect with a single exchange, and live long in the readers mind after the final, masterful, sentence.
Sarah reviewed Antopole's stories for KMUW. To listen to the review, click HERE.