The linked stories in Cara Blue Adams's collection offer glimpses of the life of Kate, a young woman from rural New England, moving between her childhood in the countryside of Vermont and her twenties and thirties in the northeast, southwest, and South in pursuit of a vocation, first as a research scientist and later as a writer.
Adams isn’t afraid to make bold choices in her fiction, and it’s little wonder this debut collection won this year’s John Simmons Short Fiction Award ... What’s so special about this book is that regardless of protagonist, these thirteen stories, which range from 26 pages to 43 words, are all strong ... Perhaps the greatest strength of the collection is the way Adams leverages these changes, as well as time, in such a way that it’s apparent how these factors influence character ... The jokes, by the way, are funny. Adams has a knack for inserting wry humor at just the right time, which helps balance some of the heavier topics that emerge. Along with exploring the distance between what Kate once had and what she currently wants, these stories wrestle with issues of consent, gender, social class, and loving someone struggling with addiction. There’s an impressive range displayed here—both in subject and style—making You Never Get It Back a strong and notable collection. The expectations Adams set with her first story—which is smart, moving, even brilliant—are indeed fulfilled, which will leave readers hungry for her next book.
... an elegantly mastered and precise collection of linked stories ... On top of the beautifully woven narrative, Adams uses her abilities as a writer to uniquely shape the book as a whole. Place is as much of a character as Kate or her mother or Esme ... Adams also successfully switches points of view, oscillating between first, second, and third person and back again, all while keeping the cadence intact and the larger story of the collection on track. Within these twelve vivid stories, the scope of Kate’s journey is broadened by characters like her mom and sister, a few friends, and her romantic interests ... Every sentence in every story is nuanced and complete, creating layers of meaning in which loneliness and longing are palpable, woven into each word ... a masterfully curated collection containing what feels like the scope of a novel in a minute package.
Cara Blue Adams’s evocative first book is described as a collection of interlinked short stories, though it could easily be classified as a novel without the padding. We do not, after all, describe movies with time jumps as a collection of short films. Perhaps we should. We could dispense with the '15 seconds earlier' chyrons forever ... While each episode is somewhat discrete, this carefully curated collection forms a greater and more satisfying whole than the sum of its happy and sad parts ... Adams succeeds in capturing the microcosm of a young woman’s ordinary struggle in modern America, and it turns out to be pretty devastating ... There is a casual brutality in the manner with which Adams carves out Kate’s progression from student angst to adult crises ... This sense of things ending before they have begun suffuses the book with a sadness only slightly leavened by sensuous descriptions of an Arizona evening, or the scent of a New England sweater ... Through Kate’s particular losses, Cara Blue Adams does a fine job of showing the impossibility of innocence in a world that doesn’t recognize your worth.