In the Saint-Henri neighbourhood of Montreal, nine linked people – lovers, friends, spouses, parents, kids, and strangers – have their stories told in the twelve short stories in Ami Sands Brodoff’s The Sleep of Apples. I always enjoy linked short stories, with overlapping characters, because I always treat it as a game to figure out who’s connected to who and who flits between each story and how. The Sleep of Apples absolutely scratches this itch. Brodoff invites us into the neighbourhood, introducing us to the different generations and their lives over time, beginning with Miri as a child, learning the truth about her father and role model, to the titular story at the end of the book, following Miri in her dying days, coming to terms with the end of her life and work – all the while other characters flit in and out of the main stage, linked as friends and classmates, neighbours and caregivers, and even witnesses to the death of another character’s mother. Each story is its own world inside the neighbourhood, with previous main characters stepping back and becoming part of the background in the next story. This is something I think Brodoff does very well here: creating a realistic, well-rounded cast of characters with sometimes only the slightest of linkages, or decades of time between each story.
There’s a lot happening in these stories: struggling with fertility, sexuality, gender identity, mental illness, mortality, terminal illness, and estrangement. Occasionally I wished that a story had been a little longer – there were a few pieces where I felt things would have flowed better if they had been longer. However, Brodoff excelled in her treatment of these incredibly complex and delicate subjects, navigating the different feelings of her characters and their opposing viewpoints with compassion and sensitivity.
Ultimately, I liked The Sleep of Apples, though some arcs were certainly more compelling than others. However, the stories were all of a similar quality and tenderness. My personal favourite was “Private Practice,” where Miri, now a psychiatrist, meets with Rachel and Natalie about their son, JF. Rachel and Natalie first appeared in the second story, “The Arrangement,” where Natalie and her then-husband, Guy, ask Rachel’s help when they’re having trouble conceiving – a request which changes their relationships forever. It was these clever and seamless links between the stories which really made this book for me. A full, rich working-class community in the midst of gentrification, Saint-Henri is the loving background character in all of the stories in this collection, acting as the tool Brodoff uses to smudge the line between short stories and a novel and provide a solid continuity. The Sleep of Apples is a wonderful read for anyone interested in community.
Ami Sands Brodoff is the award-winning author of three novels and two volumes of stories. Her latest novel, In Many Waters, grapples with our worldwide refugee crisis. The White Space Between, which focuses on a mother and daughter struggling with the impact of the Holocaust, won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction (The Vine Award). Bloodknots, a volume of thematically-linked stories, was a finalist for The Re-Lit Award. Ami leads creative writing workshops for teens, adults, and seniors. She has also taught writing to formerly incarcerated women and to people grappling with mental illness. Ami has been awarded fellowships to Yaddo, The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragdale Foundation, and St. James Cavalier Arts Centre (Malta). Ami lives in Montreal. The Sleep of Apples is her third short fiction collection.
- Publisher : Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series (Sept. 30 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 200 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1771338814
- ISBN-13 : 978-1771338813