It is always a special experience to read something written by a friend. It is even more special to follow the fledgling ideas from Facebook chat and email conversations as they spread their wings and soar across the pages of an honest-to-goodness book. In From the Heart, I was, once again, blown away by the way Jamie approaches heavy, serious, and even dark material with an honesty and humor that makes his characters irresistible. It makes me wonder if all authors put this much of themselves into their stories. Jamie’s gentle way of making you think just a little bit differently, to question a little bit more, to experience the weight of every moment shine through in his collection of short stories.
Two of my favorite stories are contained in this collection, Glasses and Hearts. Reading them again, I found they still raised questions for me, still made me think about them long after I was finished reading. I think I am drawn to these two stories because they focus on what it means to be vulnerable and how we truly connect with others. In this wide, messy world it is so easy to lose sight of the fact that we are all in this together and these stories bring that reality back to the forefront of my mind.
Somehow I always seemed to have my back to the sun anyway.
When I re-read Glasses, I found myself wondering: What if we could see each person we encounter, not as flesh and blood, but as the people they truly are? What if our connections and experiences make a lasting mark on us and someone else could see that mark? And what if we’ve carefully kept ourselves from connections and experiences in order to preserve ourselves, only to discover that isn’t really preservation at all? I discovered the answers to these questions right alongside “Jonas” as he experienced the magic of the glasses and watched the colors come to him.
A little bit of grief, a little solitude, and a dash of could-have-been.
A single drop slid down the side of the glass and fell to the counter; like a lone tear, or a leap of faith.
It had been so long since my first reading of Hearts, that I didn’t remember how it can catch you off-guard. It’s one of those stories whose meaning doesn’t dawn until a few pages in and suddenly your mouth is hanging open and you really have to focus on breathing. Imagine if we walked through this world with our hearts, literally, on our sleeves. What if everyone we met knew what we felt about ourselves, our lives, even about them? And what if we couldn’t recognize the significance of our words without the help of a friendly barkeep who knew how to mix us just the right drink, while fighting off demons of his own?
If you want a quick but meaningful read, a collection of lovely and intentional stories, I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of From the Heart. You won’t regret it!