The first story collection from multiple award-winner Amy Hempel in more than a decade, Sing to It introduces us to a volunteer at a dog shelter, a spurned wife examining her husband's affair, a woman reckoning with a choice she made as a teenager, and other characters searching for connection.
You can't rush great fiction, and that's exactly what Hempel delivers in her new collection, Sing to It. The fifteen stories in Hempel's new book showcase the author's immense talents, and prove that she's one of the most vital authors of short fiction writing today ... There's not a story in Sing to It that's less than brilliant, and the collection itself is even greater than the sum of its parts. Hempel occasionally draws comparisons to authors like Mary Robison and Joy Williams, but she writes like nobody else — she's an irreplaceable literary treasure who has mastered the art of the short story more skillfully than just about any other writer out there. Sing to It is a quiet masterpiece by a true American original.
In 15 audacious stories, Hempel creates an uncanny and mesmerizing universe ... Throughout, Hempel asks: When is singing a form of denial, an act of occlusion, a whistling in the wind, and when is it a genuinely healing, redemptive, liberating act? Her own song is at once stark and resonant, witty and plaintive, buoyant and wistful, and this collection one of the most original and beautiful in recent memory.
Hempel works carefully, sparingly, glancingly. Perhaps, in the nineteen-seventies and eighties, she learned from her teacher Gordon Lish how to abolish the nonessential, but then she got to work on the essential. Her stories assemble extraordinary sentences. And each purified sentence is itself a story, a kind of suspended enigma ... And [Hempel's] characters often speak as sparklingly and strangely as their creator writes ... Hempel, like some practical genius of the forest, can make living structures out of what look like mere bric-a-brac, leavings, residue. It’s astonishing how little she needs to get something up and going on the page ... Like Paley, who has clearly been an influence, [Hempel] is easy to read and sometimes harder to comprehend. Her sentences are not complex, but the speed of their connection to one another is a little breathtaking. You need to slow down in order to go as quickly as Hempel is travelling. Like Paley, she is a natural storyteller who is also very interested in the artifice of storytelling—in the ways that stories deform or hide the truth, in what can and can’t be disclosed on the page. She is a self-reflexive writer who, miraculously, doesn’t seem self-conscious.