Reader review of The Ruin of Everything

Do you look for faces of people you know when you read? Or do you meander and pause in amusement when you recognize a face in a different name? Do you look for yourself?

This collection of short stories by Stapleton — her second — offers more than a dozen characters at the center and in peripherals who are at once distant and familiar. But the center, which often cannot hold, shifts constantly. There are hipsters and hitchers, blesseds and bastards, stars and solitaries, nurturing traumas and aspirations, regrets and redemptions.

Stapleton often eschews the traditional arc of storytelling. Some read like expanded character sketches, though the story is IN the characters. This is not to say the narratives lack emotions — they are embedded in each character, affirmed or denied by their respective coteries. After all, aren’t we the sum of all lives we touched and denied?

Stapleton reminds us that though sometimes each of us may be an island, we are only part and parcel of an archipelago. And if it’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, the same is true in creating a ruin.

—Victor Velasco