“Pure Hollywood” by Christine Schutt


Genre:         General FictionPure Hollywood
Publisher:   Grove Atlantic
Pub. Date:   March 13, 2018

I was in the mood for something light and fluffy.  I didn’t even read the book blurb before I began reading the story since the title sounds like a celebrity movie-star type of easy read.   I was way off.   Nevertheless, I am so glad that I found this author, Christine Schutt, and read this short story collection.   She writes eleven captivating tales portraying the darkness that the reader will find in the souls of her characters.  I am using the word “soul” for that is just what came to mind.  After I finished this collection, I googled the author and learned that her 2009 book, “All Souls” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.  I sure did stumble into good luck discovering Christine Schutt.

“Pure Hollywood” is the title story.  It is more a novella than a short story.  A brother comes to aid his sister after the death of her much older husband.  Her stepchildren, who are her age, ensure that she will not inherit a cent.  The story goes back and forth in time between their dysfunctional childhood and the present.  It is very sad and telling to read that the brother actually calls the sister’s (for now) showy mansion as frosty as when they were children and living in their mothers’ car.  The siblings have a complicated relationship.  If I say more it would be a spoiler. Creepy read.

“Lucinda’s Garden” features a self-absorbed young couple.  They are lucky enough to be house-sitting a seaside cottage.   All day long they lay in the sun, swim in the ocean, smoke joints and are very much in love with themselves, more so than with each other.  They feel invincible, so they take many dangerous risks.   I disliked this couple till I liked them and repeated these thoughts throughout the tale.

“The Hedges” is the story that chilled me the most.  A young married couple vacations at a swanky beach resort.  They bring along their toddler son.  The other guests notice that the mother goes out of her way to ignore and not be around her child.  She leaves all vacation parenting to her husband while she sunbathes.  We know that the boy is sick, which makes him cranky.  Still, this does not excuse her to the others.  This reviewer thinks that although she loves her son, she does not possess maternal instincts.  She is not a frigid mother.  She is simply not a natural mom.   Maybe it is the mother in me that I found this one so very hard to read.

Schutt has a knack for creating unexpected plot twists.   More importantly, she will scare the bejesus out of you by bringing you inside the minds of her toxic characters.  You will recoil from their disturbing passions.  Some of the stories are extremely short.   Still, they carry a big punch, assaulting the reader.  I may not have read this author before, but I most certainly will be reading her again.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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