Short stories are, by their very nature, intense. No build-up, no long story arcs; you’re thrown into a slice of life and need to process it all on the fly. It’s a story-telling form that is not often my first choice as a reader, but Bolivia forced me out of my comfort zone. The book I chose for my first South American destination is a collection of short stories, The Fat Man from La Paz: Contemporary Fiction from Bolivia.
I’ll come right out with it and say that some of the selections made me uncomfortable. I seriously disliked a few of the characters I met, and was unsure at first of how to review the book as a whole. After thinking, and talking, about it for a few days, I realized that discomfort was something to pay attention to. It made me realize just how universally GOOD the writers are that were included in this compilation; every story managed to affect me on a pretty deep level. Rural life versus urban life, gender issues, corruption, war, family dramas…all are pretty universal topics, but I’m grateful for the chance to catch a glimpse of a uniquely Bolivian perspective.