Have you ever been dumped? Or cheated on? Or you and the person you love have drifted apart? Or have you been through the opposite: hopelessly in love? In desperate search of “the One”? Or thinking you found the right person? If you have answered any of these questions with a reluctant or eager “yes,” have I got the book for you!
Last week, I picked up and began listening to Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s collection of short stories, Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory. If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Bob-Waksberg, you are probably more familiar with his creation of the critically acclaimed Netflix show Bojack Horseman. Bob-Waksberg brings the same dark, surrealist, humor of the show into this debut collection about love and loss, published just last year. Although it was originally published in print, it has gained popularity as an audiobook, which is voiced by a cast of actors and actresses ranging from popular TV shows stars like Stephanie Beatriz from Brooklyn Nine Nine, and Nicholas Gonzales from The Good Doctor (meet the full cast here). Not only does the audiobook feature a star-studded cast; it also features the author himself, narrating the first short titled, “Salted Circus Cashews.” Filled with surrealist imagery, startling humor, heavy themes, and dark twists, Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory earned its spot as one of NPR’s Favorite Books of 2019.
I can understand why. It is hard not to fall in love with this book. As a college student, I rarely have time to complete a thick, thought-provoking novel just for my own leisure and enjoyment; so I often opt for short story collections. Personally, my preference is print, but when I heard the rave reviews about the audiobook of Someone Who Will Love You, I couldn’t help but download it from my local library. This audiobook enthralled me from the very first story. I could not stop listening and would often stop what I was doing while listening, in order to envelop myself in the story and the writing.
The way Bob-Waksberg writes is so highly intoxicating, because he finds ways to balance the dark and light, the real and the nonreal, seriousness of the themes and the lightheartedness of humor. One important thing to commend him on is how real these stories felt no matter how outlandish the settings or characters seemed to be. Everything he wrote was believable– even the unbelievable. What I mean by that is how often, and how successfully, Bob-Waksberg jumps from genre to genre within this collection: to fantasy to sci-fi to realistic fiction. It is truly amazing how, despite breaking the genre barrier, he is able to create such a cohesive collection with one common but strong thread of love, or the lack thereof, in relationships. Not to mention, Bob-Waksberg also steers clear of repeating the same story, often veering off the beaten road of slow-burn, happily-ever-after relationships. His stories discuss unhealthy relationships, the demise of relationships, self-love, familial relationships, and expectations of and in relationships, just to name a few. This contributes to how real and impactful these stories feel to those listening or reading. For those reasons, I am absolutely in love with this collection.
However, as Bob-Waksberg describes eloquently, no love is without hardship. And thus, no book is without flaws. While I feel that the excellent attributes outweigh the flaws of these short stories, they still need to be discussed. The few things I found troubling about this book was how varied the story lengths and endings were. Some stories were very long and winding, and I wasn’t sure when they were going to end or if the audio had switched over to the next story without my noticing. Other stories were too short, abrupt, or choppy, and they left me wanting more from the story. There was the same opposite effect in the story endings. On the one end, the stories ended on an ambiguous note, leading the readers (or listeners) in a general direction of a meaning, but ultimately letting them take from it what they will or were completely open-ended. But on the other hand, some stories concluded with a smack-in-the-face ending that almost laid out for the reader the entire, deeper meaning of the story. Personally, I preferred the stories that had the vague middle ground, where it was open-ended but not too open-ended, allowing me to use my imagination and not spelling everything out. Bob-Waksberg seemed to jump around between these three types of endings without deciding on one style and sticking to it. I feel if he had chosen a consistent style of writing an ending (not writing the same ending, necessarily, but choosing one of the trends discussed previously), and included the occasional story with a slightly different style, then the collection would have been a little more cohesive.
Nevertheless, I was very impressed with this collection overall, despite the few flaws that stuck out to me. I thought the writing was brilliant most of the time, and I enjoyed the many and varied perspectives on the theme of love and relationships, which the author managed to create without presenting true love in an ideal “Hollywood ending” way. I think this collection provides a wonderful way to escape, to lose yourself in the stories; and the audiobook is perfect for those who may not particularly like to read– it does an excellent job of keeping your attention. But whether you read it or listen to it, Someone Who Will Love You is not your typical collection of short stories. It’s a unique work of literature that truly has something for everyone in it. So, give it a try. You may just find that you have fallen in love with it… as I did.