The reassuring title of this collection of short stories by Miranda July introduces themes of loss, longing and belonging which are the undercurrent of each tale. July writes with nostalgia and attention to detail about the relationships we hold with both friends and strangers – sex becomes un-sexy, friendships are threaded with the complications of jealousy, and loneliness is both refuge and cage.
My favourite of the stories is The Swim Team. It's the story of a missing year, the true story that doesn't fit with the 'lurid and specific' guesses which shine with a brighter, more exciting light. The truth of just getting away for a year, the insignificant lies that make it possible, and the reformation of a new person away from everyone who knows that your name isn't really Maria. Not-Maria, in the small town of Belvedere, takes on a three-person swim team, coaching them twice a week on the kitchen floor of her tiny apartment. Undaunted by the lack of actual swimming pool, her ageing charges Elizabeth, Kelda and Jack-Jack demonstrate a zest for life that overwhelms a town in which nothing ever happens.
July is great at making the absurd come to life, and showing us the price of age, loneliness, curiosity and honesty. Each story is a world in itself, making this book a good one to dip in and out of, or to read in one go, letting the stories blur so that the underlying themes may be laid clear. Afterwards you'll be left half-reassured, half wondering - perhaps you don't want to belong here, after all.