In this collection of short stories, L’Chaim and Lamentations, Craig Darch brings life and feeling into narratives that weave through multigenerational lenses. Without shying away from controversial subjects, Darch introduces complex characters whose relationships reflect the layers of the experiences of older adults.
The settings around and ages of his protagonists give the book the overarching structure that holds the stories together. Although Darch does not directly address immigration as a theme, he artfully weaves the idea of bridging the old world and the new. With six of the stories firmly planted in the United States, all seven feel connected to multiple places in time and space, reaching back to Eastern Europe and forwards to an unimaginable future.
Most remarkable about the stories is the distinct voice of each narrator. Darch bravely faces the challenge of writing for a mix of native and non-native English speakers, which more strongly defines the individual stories. The linguistic complexity makes it easier for readers to enter each particular story, without proving to be a stumbling block when moving from one to another. Essentially, Darch is successful in giving readers seven distinct stories with well-defined characters, which can hold their own individually or read together in an afternoon.
Darch’s writing includes some difficult topics, and it would be a mistake to confuse the brevity of the collection with the attention that it deserves. No single story will take more than minutes to read, but it would be a good idea to stop and take a breath and an equal amount of time to reflect before diving into the next. There are plenty of opportunities for readers, especially those with roots in Eastern Europe or New York City, to relate the characters to real people they know. Any messiness that appears around the edges serves to underscore their vitality as he showcases the highs of the personal celebrations and triumphs with lows of tragedy and defeat. Hopefully, Darch’s success will encourage other writers and readers to engage with these themes with such thoughtfulness and creativity.
Deborah Miller received rabbinical ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter, where she serves as a hospice chaplain and teacher.