one of the most enjoyable things about this touching and very human collection of short stories is the delightfully quirky bent that author miranda july (in true miranda july style) brings to it. if you've seen her film me and you and everyone we know then you'll already be familiar with ms july's heartwarmingly awkward presence and you're bound to love this book (if you haven't seen the film: go. now).
all the stories are pretty cool but there were a couple that really stood out. the first was "something that needs nothing" which tells the tale of a painfully half-realised love – in this story the joy of one character finally fulfilling their desire for another is bitterly balanced out by the pain they feel at only being able to do so partially. it's a tricky sensation to try and describe but i think the closest image i can apply is that of being able to constantly smell your favourite meal cooking (and feeling your mouth water and stomach gurgle) without ever being able to actually eat it.
the other that really struck me was "the boy from lam kien" which describes the situation of a woman so painfully shy she won't even leave her own home. the isolated world she inhabits within her four walls is broken in upon one day by a young boy who, completely unaware (in the way that kids usually are) of what's going on in the woman's head, sees no reason not to invite himself round to his neighbour's house for afternoon tea and a chat. what i liked so much about this story was the contrast between the (totally self-constructed) complexity of the woman and the almost selfish simplicity of the boy. plus my heart broke a little bit for this lady who was so terrified of life she wouldn't live it.
which leads me to add, actually, that my heart broke a little bit for each of the characters in these stories and, each time, it was because i could see a little bit of my own awkwardness or that of someone i love in them.
p.s. if you are completely unfamiliar with miranda july then visiting her website for this book will give you some idea. just go look, i can't explain: http://noonebelongsheremorethanyou.com/ .