“Book Review: The Old Men Who Row Boats and Other Stories”
Reviewed by Madeline Barbush
Stories that take nothing for granted
David Joseph’s The Old Men Who Row Boats and Other Stories reads like good old-fashioned storytelling. It’s an opportunity to absorb a world around us, to witness a collection of perceptive observations of lives on the Iberian Peninsula. A simple moment, like a quiet interaction between strangers, transforms into a captivating tale of lost time or lost love, newfound friendship or newfound hope, under the pen of David Joseph.
In this collection of fourteen short stories, readers are immersed in the everyday lives of people living in various areas of the Iberian Peninsula.
In one story, “The Cleanest Alimentación in Spain,” we meet Jorge who is working his weekend at his mother’s convenience store. In another, “The Old Men Who Row Boats,” we follow Javier during his usual morning of getting coffee and making his way to his favorite art museum. In each of these seemingly uneventful moments, Joseph imbues a sort of ritualistic quality and elevates them to a meaning. The most common thread between his stories? His characters come to realize that their everyday practices are not for naught. They are a path to a larger truth.
Joseph’s characters are shockingly real,and I’m sure that I’ve met a version of each of them during my time living in Spain. Joseph’s introduction to one of my favorite characters in the collection, Andre, the bartender from “A Good Listener,” encapsulates an atmosphere and voice I recognize:
“This was his office, his domain after all, and he would never make adjustments in order to serve more customers or serve customers more quickly. This he could not do, would not do. He moved to his own rhythms, like the sun or the moon, the warm breeze blowing outside the window of the tides of the sea.”
David Joseph shines as a storyteller. He knows what his stories are about, and he knows how they should be told. His characters are simple but imagined through a lens so romantic, so compelling, that they stand clear in the mind’s eye.
If I somehow haven’t made myself clear yet, let there be no mistake: I highly recommend immersing yourself in Joseph’s world of lovers and dreamers, strangers and lifelong friends. Each story offers an opportunity to make a meaningful connection with another human being, serves as a recollection of how intertwined we once were, and will be once again, with each other.
Genre: Literary / Short Story Collection
Print Length: 238 pages
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