Who knew that, before Elizabeth Gilbert wrote narcissistic and cliche-filled memoirs, she debuted as a short fiction writer? Had I not read rave reviews of "Pilgrims," I would never have given it a chance. Unfortunately, I can't say I'm glad I did.
In the collection, a man shoots at flying pigeons to honor the memory of a boy's dead father. Another boy's embarrassment at his father's nursing career vanishes when one of his father's tricks of the trade comes in handy. A teamster from a wholesale vegetable market comes to terms with his lot in life while counting the windows of a fancy house in Connecticut. And a bus driver boards a load of passengers, each a lover from her promiscuous past.
Gilbert eschews the high and mighty, subtly favouring the working class. She stealthily moves through her stories neither moralizing nor patronizing and tells her characters' tales in their own words without fanfare but also without restraint. Some snappy dialogue, precision and a relaxed style highlight her competent craftsmanship.
But ultimately, the book contains rampant profanity, sexism and utterly unlikable characters. Stories have uninteresting plots, end in anticlimax and contain cringe-inducing figurative language: "She's sexy like a horse is sexy."
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