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A Robber in the House - Jessica Treat In the interest of full disclosure, anyone who peruses my friend list will see that Jessica Treat is on it. I've only recently made her acquaintance and actually purchased this book before I ever had contact with her, based solely on the strength of other reviews. The opinions contained in this review are honest and I don't believe they're at all colored by having struck up a conversation with the author, but anyone who reads this review should have the full context, I think.

Reading this collection challenged my notion of just what a short story is. Can a story be told in a page? In a paragraph? Can a story encapsulate simple a moment in someone's life? The answer in Treat's hands is yes, a story can.

The best stories are the ones in which Treat explores interpersonal relationships in poetic brevity, or to be more specific, how people fail to really see each other, whether it's a pair of lovers or a mother and daughter.

The stories in the section titled "Night" resonated in particular.

A few impressions:

"A Part of Her" -- I love the last line. "These were moments." It perfectly sums up what this story is -- a moment between two lovers.

"There's A War On" -- The staff at a coffee house conspires to bring two lonely patrons together. My reading was that the woman in the story is skittish about the possible romance because hope can be such a scary thing to feel, because it's so awful when it's ripped from us. I'd like to think that beyond the edges of the story, they have a coffee together. It's probably awkward and they don't know what to say and there's this underlying hum of yearning, but the possibility of the whole thing just grows and grows. I'm in love with possibility. Possibility is the best.

"Piano" "Soldier "Cafe" -- People disconnected from their own lives, their own experiences of love and sex.

"Train" -- Interesting vignette about a lover who thinks himself protective, but perhaps is motivated by the unspoken need to possess. Treat conveys so much subtext in just a few paragraphs. Wonderful.

"Wine" and "Passenger" -- Two one-paragraph stories about passion evocative of the realities and rhythms of sex.

"Home" -- About the complete disconnection between a mother and daughter, embodied in their approaches to housework. Neither understands each other at all.

"Dressing Room" -- Yes, we've all had this experience, this guilt at our inability to tell the truth at the expense of someone else's feelings.

"Visitor" -- Creepy, creepy, creepy story. When I was a teenager, we discovered a homeless man had been living in the crawl space beneath our rented house. A window was broken and one day my mother found an old blanket and some food boxes in there. He apparently had been sneaking up into our kitchen and taking food while we were asleep. Because I was the overweight daughter, I had been blamed and yelled at for eating all the food, and was never believed when I insisted I hadn't taken it. It was one of those defining things in my life. An apology came later, but the damage was done.