by: Olaf Olafsson
Published by: Anchor Books
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Reviewed by Kim Bagato
Valentines by Olaf Olafsson is an enveloping compilation of love stories. Intriguing tales of tested and true love are masterfully told with minimal dialog. Every character is believable, yet not so fictional as to seem unreal. They are husbands and wives, bachelors and best friends. The type of folks you meet for coffee on a Saturday morning.
In chapter one we meet a bachelor returning from Iceland. His flight home to Chicago is delayed by a snowstorm, so he reconnects with an old flame on a chilly January night. In following chapters we meet three couples who struggle to stay together. Circumstances stretch their boundaries of honesty, faithfulness and acceptance.
Each vignette is set during a month of the calendar year. Just when you think the stories begin to warm, the shock of a family’s tragedy and an unpredictable revelation inflict cold heartache on Olafsson’s characters–and you want to reach out and ease their pain.
We walk alongside vacationing couples as they question their own desires and devotion, ultimately choosing to remain with their mates. In contrast to society’s swiftness to dispose of relationships that no longer make us happy, these are inspiring stories.
A misunderstanding between best friends is redeemed after several years and a few glasses of wine. A family deals with the dark side of a recovering alcoholic and his relationship to his grown daughter. Add his ex-wife and granddaughter and you have a cocktail with an unexpected finish.
Memorable, poignant, and heartfelt describe Olafsson’s style in this work of fiction. Chapter endings are true to life because realistically the impressions of others linger forever. Like the sweetness of a gentle word in seasons of despair, Valentines is a welcome gift any day of the year.
Armchair Interviews agrees.
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