One of my friends, an avid reader and lover of the short story, was asked recently what his top favorite collections are–Through the Safety Net by Charles Baxter was on that list and it is no mystery why, as it is a gorgeous, poignant, and wonderful collection of stories that test boundaries of what is expected by the reader.
The only other Charles Baxter I have read is the novel The Feast of Love, which now feels to me like an expansion of the lovely final story of the collection, “A Late Sunday Afternoon by the Huron”–which is seemingly a random collection of observances about people gathered by the Huron on a Sunday afternoon.
But as you read on, you understand it is a pointillist story–these dots are gathered together to create a whole picture (even though the narrator sometimes interjects with such things as, “What a relief it is, sometimes, not to have to tell a story about these people”).
After reading this collection, I will now also seek out Saul and Patsy because I loved these two characters and their quietly beautiful story, “Saul and Patsy Are Getting Comfortable in Michigan.”
What you find at the heart of this collection is compassion–a writer’s compassion for his characters, his empathy. And so as I read, I felt in tune with this compassion, no matter how broken some of the characters might seem, it was that broken part that drew me in, that made me feel–and what I felt was something close to being in love.