Bobcat and Other Stories is a collection of six long short stories. They are well written and the prose is beautiful throughout. Lee captures conversations well, her characters always say just enough, never too much. The stories are set in different countries and environments. In the title story, “Bobcat,” marriages and relationships dissolve. “The Banks of the Vistula” is set at an older college and follows a student who holds on to a lie about a plagiarized paper and faces the consequences. “Fialto” changes from a feminine point of view and explores things that are risked to bend and break rules. The story of “Min” tells of a woman chosen to travel to Hong Kong to find the wife for her best friend’s arranged marriage. A collection of six stories may seem small, but Lee’s writing is large and expansive, each story reads as a short novel.
Lee’s characters are numerous, her stories are filled with them. Some have a small part, some only an honorable mention, others bare their souls to the reader and expose all the flaws that make them human. Her main characters are always surrounded by others, although she also seems to find them time to themselves and a bit of room for their own thoughts. Sometimes I felt like there were missed opportunities with these minor characters and some I wished I knew more about, but they really do serve their purpose without taking over the story. The stories inhabit very large spaces, but are focused down to smaller moments within, small moments focused on the emotion of a situation, rather than the outward reaction. Lee drops large nuggets of story into a party of characters and then explores how each internalizes the event and is affected by it.
As a collection, though, to try to find the common thread of the stories might unravel the intent that keeps it all together. Lee’s stories have a very academic air that may not be enjoyable for all readers. I found them lovely and engrossing. They made me want to return to school. I enjoyed the collection immensely, but I have to say it was more for the writing, descriptions and the structure than for the plots within the stories.
Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.