We all live like we're famous now, curating our social media presences, performing our identities, withholding those parts of ourselves we don't want others to see. In this collection of stories from Jess Walter, a teenage girl tries to live up to the image of her beautiful, missing mother. An elderly couple confronts the fiction writer eavesdropping on their conversation. A son must repeatedly come out to his senile father while looking for a place to care for the old man. A famous actor in recovery has a one-night stand with the world's most surprising film critic. And in the romantic title story, a shy twenty-one-year-old studying Latin in Rome during "the year of my reinvention" finds himself face-to-face with the Italian actress of his adolescent dreams.
... intensely affecting fiction ... Jess Walter’s novels tend to have large casts and intricate plots — which are harder to pull off in short stories. Yet in Mr. Voice, he manages to render multiple generations of emotionally complex lives in just a handful of pages ... The stories in The Angel of Rome are largehearted and wonderfully inventive. They can be savored at the dentist’s office, or anywhere, without an eye on the clock.
Fans of Jess Walter's novel Beautiful Ruins will likely be thrilled by the titular story of his new collection, The Angel of Rome ... It's the longest story in the collection, but you will wish it was even longer — these characters are as enjoyable as any Walter has created. Unfortunately, only one of the collection's other 11 stories...delivers similar satisfaction ... The remaining stories are well written, but slight ... As is sometimes the case with previously published work, some of these stories feel dated ... Overall, the collection affirms that Walter excels when he allows his creations to grow over time.
If it were possible to sum up Jess Walter's The Angel of Rome and Other Stories in a word, it would be humane. In the 12 wide-ranging, consistently empathetic stories that compose his second collection, he creates a memorable assortment of characters who bump up against life's inevitable obstacles, large and small, then stumble through or surmount them ... The collection's concluding story, The Way the World Ends, is representative of Walter's light touch and ability to expose his characters' flaws with a combination of candor and sympathy ... The tales in The Angel of Rome aren't easily categorized, but each one, in its own way, provides a refreshingly honest glimpse into what it means to be alive.