“I prefer the short story, it’s like a love affair that distills and sanctifies.” These words penned by Kate Braverman could not more aptly describe her own short stories in A Good Day for Seppuku. The moment you finish one story and begin the next, it truly feels like you’re engaging in an entirely new love affair.
Within the first few lines of each story, the reader is plunged into a new character’s life. Each storyline brims with original personalities who suffer through different kinds of pain and the particular strains that human relationships can bring.
The protagonists embody simple character tropes that portray life’s conventional problems: a teenager facing neglect; a middle-aged man whose career and family life mutually and quickly deteriorate, a career-driven woman who seeks rebellion after getting fired; a professor who only prioritizes his intellect and career. However, it is difficult to write them off as clichés. Each elevates our notion of the everyday person; dark secrets, illicit vices, and alter egos lurk in the corners of their minds, and Braverman tells their life stories through refreshing but somber eyes.
Not only do we encounter enthralling characters, but also captivating details of the world that surrounds them. In “Feeding in a Famine,” a woman forces herself to visit the family she left behind in her rural hometown in order to seek a better life. Her resilience in the face of their resentment makes her realize that “climate and personality are intimately linked.” Braverman carefully paints multiple pictures to describe a single vision, characterizing them with feeling and complex dispositions. Her elaborate use of language gives as much depth to her stories’ atmospheres as it does her protagonists.
These stories illustrate how the inner workings of someone’s life can reveal themselves in even the smallest of moments. They force the reader to recognize the realities and emotions that often go unnoticed, or simply suppressed.
Michelle Zaurov is Jewish Book Council’s program associate. She graduated from Binghamton University in New York, where she studied English and literature. She has worked as a journalist writing for the Home Reporter, a local Brooklyn publication. She enjoys reading realistic fiction and fantasy novels, especially with a strong female lead.