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If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black

Pub Date: | Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
Robin Black

Random House
3-30-10
Hardcover/288 pages
ISBN: 978-1400068579
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"Ten stories and ten truths behind the privacy fences where hearts are broken and mended and life goes on."

Robin Black is a reliable witness to those intimate moments where loss is shared with keen insight and luminous writing.

In a series of short stories, Robin Black shares the intimate moments of several lives in if I loved you, I would tell you this. Each story is different and through each story runs the binding theme of loss: loss of life, loss of innocent, loss of family and home and belief.

In the title story, If I loved you, I would tell you this, a woman who has lost the battle with cancer rails silently against her new neighbor who tears down the trees her husband and she have nurtured and protected for years to build a high wooden privacy fence. The fence also makes it impossible to get in their car without hitting the fence every time they open the door. She is in a wheelchair and the new neighbor, who remains faceless throughout, cares only about himself and his family.

Each story, like the title story, offers a glimpse into the hearts and interactions of average people under leveling circumstances. A blind girl goes to college and needs to be trained to work with a seeing eye dog while her parents’ hold their marriage together until she’s gone. A woman visits her aging parents and brings her married lover instead of her husband. There are no filler stories and Black does not falter even once in her observations. She is eagle-eyed and deals generously with each character’s foibles and follies.

People create communities, sharing space and time and resources. Robin Black witnesses moments and offers brilliant insight into the differences and similarities that makes the human experience more than the sum of its parts. In an artist painting a portrait of a man with Alzheimer’s his wife wants to freeze in time, Black finds clarity in silence and healing for a broken past. Black ends with a simple answer to the complex question of life: “At dusk, you will see. One old woman with a broom sweeps it all down the hill.”

Ten stories and ten truths behind the privacy fences where hearts are broken and mended and life goes on. This is Robin Black’s laboratory where she stands as witness to the little moments and shares them with keen insight and honest writing that cuts through to the heart of loss.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell