As readers familiar with Jess Walter's work might expect, the stories in his new book, The Angel of Rome: And Other Stories, are full of humor and heart.
Whether delving into a one-night stand between a thespian and ski-town townie ("Famous Actor"), the uneasy relationship between an aging man and the kids on his street ("To The Corner"), a son coming to grips with his father's dementia ("Town & Country") or the epic Italian romance-laced character clash in "The Angel of Rome," the stories also offer hope in what can be dark times.
While one can easily jump in at any place and enjoy a story or two, taken collectively these stories, written roughly from 2012 to 2021, do start to show a theme, Walter says. "It was such a difficult few years for me. For everybody. Politically, culturally. And I kept writing short stories to find some kind of hope," he says, chatting in his Spokane office.
"There's still dark situations... But I think I was looking for kind of these human connections that felt hopeful in the face of all that. And that's maybe where even the idea of the 'Angel of Rome,' that title story, came from, was this idea of finding hope in the connections we make with other people."
As Walter looks at his short stories — the 12 in Angel were picked from around 40 in contention to be in the book — he sees more than the characters on the page. He sees himself at whatever point in time he was writing them.
"It's surprising to look back and see how many of the things you were dealing with work their way in the stories," he says. "Parenthood, children, political sorrow and anxiety over climate change. Everything kind of works its way in there."