Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge, by Peter Orner
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
208 pages, hardcover
Published August 2013
Source: Goodreads First-Reads
There is a form of religious book called the ‘devotional’. One reads a selection from the holy text and then a brief commentary or anecdote related to that selection. I really have never liked devotionals. I don’t mind reading a selection, but usually find those commentaries and remarks to be weak, obvious, overwrought, and simplistic. They never match the beauty of the original passages or the wealth of interpretations that can come from one little snippet of text in relation to its whole.
This book is what I wish devotionals were really like. Not silly, feel-good, faux-deep reflections, but original works of intense spirituality and humanity that can invite personal reflection rather than one set interpretation or thoughts from someone else. This is a short collection of literary vignettes, brief explorations of characters and situations in short stories and microfiction. For that kind of work, this collection is superb. However, in one punch, even in this short volume, it combines to make a daunting read, one that loses its beauty and poignancy if reading all at once as I did. It really would work better to read in pieces separated by time and further experience, almost like a devotional.
The ‘stories’ here often have no actual plot, but instead are brief observations of something larger, a character trait, or an isolated incident of meaning. They are broken into sections that are not immediately obvious in their differences – many for instance would still fit in the ‘survivor’ theme of the first, large section. Interspersed with what I assume are autobiographical reflections by the author that match in style much of the fiction, each page likely contains a phrase or sentence of profound beauty and possibilities. If poetic prose is something you enjoy or are looking for something literary that could serve as a devotional of sorts, then I would recommend giving this a look.