“Dropping Out,” by Danielle de Valera

This book is a series of interconnected short tales about the gulf between humans, especially the one between men and women. It’s a very Australian, male chauvinistic sort of life these people live: like life all over the world, but in a uniquely Australian setting. After all, there are a lot of people who can’t manage relationships. Relationships that function like revolving doors, people on all sorts of medications (some even legal ones), lives heading downward in a long spiral that never quite seems to crash. But if you’re a normal person with normal people skills, you don’t drop out and end up in a book like this.

However, each person is likeable in his or her own way, and thanks to the author’s talent, mostly understandable. Considering the variety of different outcasts, this is an accomplishment in itself.

There is a pleasant, warm-day-in-the-shade feeling to all these stories, which insulates us from the harsh reality of the world the characters can’t cope with. The villain in one story becomes the main character in the next, so it’s hard to take sides, become involved in the conflict. This keeps the suspense low. There seems to be a slight haze between the reader and each character’s emotions, keeping our empathy from overwhelming us.

This book is almost a novel, because the tales string together and time passes, mostly passing the characters by. It is also a collection of short stories, although to some degree each story leans on the others, depending upon our knowledge of the history of each main character in earlier stories, obliquely referred to but unexplained. So sometimes the characters blend, and you’re not sure which one we’re looking at right now.

But it’s a great read for a warm summer afternoon in the hammock.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


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