>Things Kept, Things Left Behind, by Jim Tomlinson

>More Short Story Month.

Today’s collection is Things Kept, Things Left Behind by Jim Tomlinson. I got this book when it came out last fall since Jim is a friend, but for some reason didn’t get around to reading it until this weekend. (Sorry about that, Jim!) But it sure was well worth the wait. I’ve heard Jim read a couple of times, both times (at Sewanee and AWP) from the book’s opening story “First Husband, First Wife,” which I’d also seen in Five Points. I also recognized the second story, “Lake Charles,” but there isn’t a publishing credit listed for that one so maybe I saw a draft of it. It’s a terrific piece about brothers and a horrible event that both keeps them apart and holds them together. In fact all the stories in the collection are terrific. The two connected stories that make up the title of the collection, “Things Kept” and “Things Left Behind” are excellent, and I love the images Jim creates in both.

Possibly my favorite story is one that was unknown to me: “Prologue (two lives in letters).” Claire and Davis are two high school students when they meet at a youth leadership conference in 1963 and they continue to exchange letters through years of college and war protest and marital problems. It’s rare for me to not want a story to end—I’m usually ready to move on to the next one—but I wanted to keep reading these letters! Since the story is called a prologue, maybe Jim is working on something else about Claire and Davis. An “Epilogue,” at least? This is a powerful collection of wonderful stories and it is no mystery why it won the Iowa Short Fiction Award.

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