I don’t understand this book. I went into this book knowing that the characters were going to be weird, but I overestimated my weirdness tolerance. This Is Not an Accident is a creative spin on reality, OR a realistic look at the lives we live, depending on how well you can relate to the characters. I couldn’t relate to the characters at all, and to me, Wilder’s characters and storylines seem to teeter between insanity and, well, insanity. I didn’t get the humor at all, and the stories were too short to make any sense out of them. (I guess that’s why they’re called short stories? Ha.)
This Is Not an Accident is a collection of eight short stories and one novella. In the first short story, This Is Not an Accident, Kat thinks about her relationship problems while taking driving lessons with other traffic offenders. Newly divorced Jack has a meal with his friend and his friend’s girlfriend in The Butcher Shop. In We Were Champions, a woman finds out that her high school softball coach shot himself and recollects the time when he sexually harassed her. In It’s a Long Dang Life, a grandmother contemplates her relationship with her maybe-boyfriend. In Me Me Me, Gilda’s younger sister adopts an unexpectedly scary kid, and Gilda writes letters to her other self. Lauren plans to visit Wahl, an old friend, on a trip across Europe in Christiania. In Three Men, Jess spends the last minutes of married life with her soon-to-be-divorced husband, the actuary; her father; and her brother. The Creative Writing Instructor Evaluation Form is what it is. And in You’re That Guy, Eckhart moves to Utah with his friend after spending a year taking care of a marine’s house and dog.
These are not happy stories. These aren’t even sad stories. I can only say that these are weird stories. The one-sentence summaries I wrote about each story are so much tamer than the stories actually are; the characters in all of these stories move in and out of reality like it’s their job, and often, I have no clue if things are happening in their head or actually happening in the physical world.
I actually found the characters interesting despite their craziness. Because the stories are short, each story basically comprises of a single scene or two, and I was surprised by how much interesting quirks and conversations Wilder was able to cram in a limited number of words. But even though I found the characters interesting, I couldn’t relate to them at all. I didn’t get enough time to grow fond of them or sympathize with them, but they also weren’t easy to sympathize with. They don’t seem to feel sorry about themselves or express intense emotions – they face problems with a practical (or indifferent? Dazed? I couldn’t tell) attitude.
There are some slightly gruesome details and obscene language in this book, albeit dulled down because the characters delivered them in such an indifferent (practical? Dazed?) manner. These details are the centerpiece of some stories and a side note in others, but they still bothered me because of how unexpected they seemed.
This Is Not an Accident is full of interestingly weird characters and weirder scenes, and I’m not sure I fully understand what I read. And humor, what humor? I seriously didn’t smile, snicker, snort, or laugh throughout any part of this book, so maybe this is just not the right book for me.