Book Review: A Gathering of Broken Mirrors

1 year ago 56

Reviewed by Robyn-Lee Samuels

A charming story collection about belonging, family, and fate in New York City

Anthony E. Shaw showcases the unique stories of twenty-four different people in A Gathering of Broken Mirrors: Memories of Survivors in New York. Some tales focus on relatives, others focus on storytellers, and others personify the abstract like fate or time. 

The book includes perspectives from different cultures like those within Italian, African American, and Irish communities. Each memory explores humanity, identity, belonging, family, and most importantly, what it means to be a New Yorker.

A Gathering of Broken Mirrors is a cozy experience. 

Imagine: a Sunday afternoon listening to stories of your late uncle’s misadventures. They are funny, emotive, at times unbelievable. These stories, like family myths, tell truths of the lives of those who could exist only in real life, sometimes with fantastical detail.

One of my favorite characters in this collection is Del from “Sunday Gravy with Uncle Del.” He is a man of many hats, known for his gravy and loved by family and friends alike, but he has his own dark past too. It seems that this old miser can’t stay out of trouble. He’s a shylock, debt collector, and even gangster at times. Uncle Del’s antics and brush-ins with the law will have you laughing out loud.

And while the humor and antics make his story great, it’s something else that makes it extraordinary: despite being old enough that dementia has settled in, the Feds still keep tabs on him. Uncle Del is real and can only exist here; we can feel it.

Other stories discuss the importance of identity, food, and language to immigrant communities. From the way they prepare their food to their dedication to work and family, each story celebrates traditions and the old world throughout generations. The anecdotes are a reflection of how far immigrants go and how they’ve influenced the neighborhoods in New York City. Italian families, for instance, might have come to America and opened restaurants. It’s no coincidence that when I think of New York food, I think of Italian cuisine. The impact of their arrival weaves through the blood and streets of NYC.

There are tragic tales too, like that of Arthur and Betty in “The Lesson of One Day,” about an unhappily married couple who lived in the 1960s but refused to divorce. Their anecdote is told through two monologues, shedding light on how each partner sees the other and their marriage and why they stay together despite their misery. 

This book is filled with the joys and tragedies of real life. Anyone could find a favorite in these authentic New York stories, and maybe even learn a life lesson or two along the way.

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Genre: Short Story Collection

Print Length: 262 pages

ISBN: 978-1639880560

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