‘Stay Up With Me’: A moving debut collection

Tom Barbash. Photo by Sven Wiederholt
Tom Barbash. Photo by Sven Wiederholt

Brooklyn Eagle recently featured a moving debut collection of short stories, “Stay Up With Me” (Ecco/Harper Collins), in which award-winning novelist Tom Barbash paints a sophisticated picture of the ways in which humans connect with each other and the world surrounding them. Already receiving widespread praise, Barbash’s stories, mostly set in New York, tackle such delicate themes as heartbreak, sex, death, and coming-of-age. The author, known for his books “The Last Good Chance” and “On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9/11; A Story of Loss and Renewal”, will appear at Fort Greene’s Greenlight Bookstore on Sept. 25 to speak about his new collection with renowned author Rick Moody.

“Stay Up With Me” is a cohesive compilation of 13 distinct stories, all of which evoke the intricacies of human nature. In “The Break,” the first of the pieces, a mother struggles in her interactions with her nineteen-year-old son, who is home from college over Christmas vacation. She attempts to reconcile her fierce desire to protect and provide a good life for her son with her desire to give him independence.

In “Balloon Night,” a 34-year-old man is determined to host his and his wife’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade party even after his wife has left him. He resolves not to tell anyone about his flailing marriage, and instead informs his guests that his wife is away on business and is “heartbroken” to be missing the party.

“January” tells the story of Dex, a boy whose world falls apart when his father gets fired and his parents divorce. His father, now dying of pneumonia, is “chock-full of chemicals from the landfill where he worked,” which is slowly destroying his memory; he continues to refer to Dex as Karl, his brother who died 12 years earlier. Meanwhile, Dex’s mother is dating a man named Russell, who, at least in Dex’s eyes, is rather showy. As Russell tries to take the place of Dex’s father, insensitively telling Dex that his mother “can’t remember a single happy memory about that man,” Dex feels stifled and seeks escape.

Other stories in “Stay Up With Me” similarly explore the complexities of family life and the human tendency to simultaneously move forward while clinging to the past. Altogether, Barbash’s stories present a poignant cast of characters that will resonate with readers.
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The Sept. 25 event will begin at 7:30 p.m. Greenlight Bookstore is located at 686 Fulton St. in Fort Greene. 

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