A Good Day for Sep­puku: Stories

Kate Braver­man
  • Review
By – August 7, 2018

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.

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