“Were We Awake: Stories” by L.M. Brown

This is a book about the beautiful, ineffable loneliness of the human inability to share emotions. These people are not the ‘larger than life’ who expose their hearts on a big screen. These are the little souls who live their isolation in every empty minute of their lives. Their failures are the lack of contact. Their triumphs are the temporary connections they make with others who sympathize.

The writing teems with subtle touches that dig deep into the heart of the matter and the people. Nothing is wasted in a spare, sometimes poetic writing style that says far more than the words indicate.

The tone of the whole book is even and the pace steady. Few things happen, and those that do are seen through a screen or fog; the actions and the emotions are likewise muted and blurry. Nobody seems to know how they are supposed to be feeling at momentous events in their lives, and as a result they don’t feel much.

This book paints a picture of small people in small lives who can’t manage to get a grasp on what is wrong, but usually muddle through anyway. There are no silver bullets, no happily-ever-after endings, just, sometimes, the chance to go on and maybe make things better, or at least bearable.

One caution: just as the lives of the characters go on in their quiet, unchanging way, there is a rarely-broken sameness to the tone and level of the stories. There is no splash of glory here, just tiny diamonds on a simple bracelet. The answer to the question in the title is, “Never completely.”

Not a work to be read at one sitting. A book for the bedside table to be picked up and enjoyed a bit at a time in mellow moments.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


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