There is an attention to detail that makes the stories in Clare Sestanovich’s “Objects of Desire.” Whether it’s noticing how thinly sliced the vegetables on a plate are, abstract wallpaper installed upside-down, or two characters’ knees nearly touching, it’s precise moments like these I appreciate as a reader. Those moments where you let the image settle, and next time you witness one of these details in your own life, you stop to appreciate it.
“Objects of Desire” is a debut collection of short stories from a writer who has honed the craft of writing. The sentences move seamlessly through the meticulousness of life. A character confesses, “I liked the idea of going all day without speaking, clearing my throat sometime in the evening, preparing to address someone for the first time.” It is lines like these that allow the reader to trust Sestanovich’s narration, despite the characters’ motives. The prose is confessional and intricate.
One may dare call these stories “quiet,” but that would be incorrect. A woman loses her career after her new hire files a sexual harassment lawsuit. After her co-worker’s rallying tweets against office misogyny gain viral popularity, a woman is coerced by their boss to fire her. A child artist is the confidant to her family’s secrets. These are hardly “quiet” stories. A more accurate description is a combination of intimate and vulnerable. Sestanovich writes with a delicate motif of bad decisions that bring out the humanity of these characters.
Each story fits a cycle of growing maturity throughout the book. Artists come into their trades or reside in mediocrity if it is the compromise they are forced to make. In the opening story, “Annunciation,” a young woman befriends a couple on a plane, after her first year of college. By the final story, “Separating,” a widow with abandonment hang-ups sleeps in her daughter’s bed after she moves across the country, thus bringing us back for a full circle of perspectives. With honest tragedy, these stories are reminiscent of “Is This What Other Women Feel Too?” by June Akers Seese with a touch of Alain de Botton.
The character’s decisions are not always what we desire as a reader, but they are what the story needs to replicate the tragedy of everyday life.
“Objects of Desire”
By Clare Sestanovich
Knopf, 224 pages
Joshua Bohnsack is the assistant managing editor for TriQuarterly and founding editor for Long Day Press. He is the author of the story collection “Shift Drink” and his work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, SAND, and others. He lives in Chicago where he works as a bookseller.