Robert Oldshue’s debut short story collection, “November Storm,” is the 2016 winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, and deservedly so. Oldshue, who is a practicing physician in Boston and an instructor at Harvard, has produced an impressive set of stories filled with distinct, vivid characters.
Each story has its foundation in a medical situation, but Oldshue is adept at embodying various perspectives, fully considering the emotional weight of a given scenario, and crafting convincing, individual voices.
Generally, when I review story collections, this is the spot where I identify my favorites in the book. But with each subsequent story read, I found myself thinking that the most recent story was my new favorite.
So instead of naming the story or stories I found most resonant (for that would be all of them), I’ll share an example of the author’s ability to capture the voice of a character. Here, the narrator of “Home Depot” is wrestling with the news that her grandchild might be born with abnormalities.
“So I tell her the rest, and she’s the oldest, so she tells me what to do. There’s all kinds of retards, she says. There’s bad retards and not so bad and there’s retards you wouldn’t know were retards if you didn’t ask. These days they got retards doing everything, she says. My sister isn’t Shakespeare but she’s a good f-ing sister.”
The narrator follows this up with, “Excuse me. But you say what you have to say.”
What has to be said about “November Storm” is that it is exceptional work, which I commend to you.