In 10 interconnected stories, the people of Glass, a picturesque village on the rugged English coast, are haunted by longings and deeply held secrets, captive to pasts that remain as alive as the present.
D. Wystan Owen’s beautiful debut collection, Other People’s Love Affairs, is a book to treasure ... these stories are timeless character studies, bolstered by lovely prose and equally stunning insights. This is a collection to read slowly and savor, stories to read again and again ... There is no doubt that Owen is writing in the tradition of William Trevor and Yiyun Li ... Both of their influences are clear in the way that Owen studies and inhabits his often-lonely characters, in his exploration of why people behave the way they do, and in his prose ... he has, in fact, wondered so elegantly and so completely that he has created a whole world. And it is in that rendering of this fictional world that Owen moves away from Trevor’s shadow. He is able to easily shift between point-of-view characters—males and females, of varying ages—within stories but also from story to story. The world is created by the way each story is layered on top of the other ... There is a melancholy here that runs through all the stories in the book. The understandings that many of these characters arrive at are not necessarily ones that make them happy or optimistic. The nostalgia for the past—of that time before knowing and understanding—often overwhelms and engulfs the present ... the landscape and the setting are beautifully drawn throughout, with descriptions often mirroring the interiority of a character. It is the place, finally, that binds these characters together and allow us to see, even if they can’t, how much we all share.
Unusual relationships are at the heart of Owen’s stories, which delve to voyeuristic depths ... the characters in Other People’s Love Affairs are strongly reminiscent of Alice Munro’s ordinary—yet by no means dull—affairs of the heart. This is the beauty of both Owen and Munro: They nudge open the door to hidden psyches and invite us to step inside ... It’s a testament to the power of Owen’s storytelling that, despite the shortcomings of his characters, we care deeply about them. He asks us to acknowledge their—and our own—humanity ... In fact, it’s difficult to find a weakness in Other People’s Love Affairs. If there is one, it’s that some connections seem slightly unbelievable ... Owen’s writing is so exquisite, however, that it overshadows any such flaws ... Easy as it would be to recommend Owen’s book only to lovers of short stories, that would be selling it short. Truly, this book is a worthwhile read for any lover of poetic—and poignant—commentary on the human condition.
Owen’s evocative stories are about love, loss, intentional and unintentional betrayals. The scale of the drama is small and personal, but the stakes and impact are profound. Every tale is told from the vantage point of narrators who (even if native) do not quite fit in, are not quite at home in the community. The author demonstrates a remarkable capacity to enter the emotional experience of characters who range from young children to the elderly. He gently uncovers and plumbs the hopes and fears, memories, and griefs of all his characters ... These are stories of yearning for closeness, of remembering, imagining, and almost connecting but not quite ... The reader will find no tidy resolutions nor simple happy endings...but the provisional, marginal moments of tenderness and intimacy that provide a measure of comfort to Owen’s characters, will also satisfy those fortunate enough to discover Other People’s Love Affairs. The collection’s prevailing tone may be that of quiet melancholy, but it is suffused with joy.