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Jewel Box: Stories, by E. Lily Yu

Review copy provided by the publisher.

The title for this collection is not meant to be subtle: Yu’s stories are often described as lapidary, each one a perfect little gem, and this is entirely fair. They’re beautiful. Several times I said either, “Oh yes, I remember this one!” or “How did I miss this one?”

This is, however, in the category of “short story collections I recommend reading in pieces rather than all in one go.” It’s not just that all the beautiful language can overwhelm, although I think some readers will have that reaction. It’s also that stacked up, the places where Yu’s characterization tends toward not just cynicism but a rather surface or obvious cynicism. Standing on their own, each piece is allowed to shine. When taken all together the effect is rather lessened. Happily for all of us, it’s perfectly possible to read short story collections a bit at a time and take them in as the singular works they were meant to be.

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