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Music for Wartime: Stories

By Rebecca Makkai

ISBN: 9780525426691

Author Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt

Music for Wartime StoriesSynopsis:

Rebecca Makkai’s first two novels, The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, have established her as one of the freshest and most imaginative voices in fiction. Now, the award-winning writer, whose stories have appeared in four consecutive editions of The Best American Short Stories, returns with a highly anticipated collection bearing her signature mix of intelligence, wit, and heart.

A reality show producer manipulates two contestants into falling in love, even as her own relationship falls apart. Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a young boy has a revelation about his father’s past when a renowned Romanian violinist plays a concert in their home. When the prized elephant of a traveling circus keels over dead, the small-town minister tasked with burying its remains comes to question his own faith. In an unnamed country, a composer records the folk songs of two women from a village on the brink of destruction.

These transporting, deeply moving stories—some inspired by her own family history—amply demonstrate Makkai’s extraordinary range as a storyteller, and confirm her as a master of the short story form.


I enjoy short stories at times, other times not so much. Kind of like a midafternoon snack, that is how I see short stories, where novels are a five course meal. Well I enjoyed my afternoon snack immensely. Music for Wartime is a very diverse collection of glimpses into the past, the present and some weird wonderland. Some of the stories were a bit off the beaten path and at times just plain odd. Most however where wonderful tales of a very talented author. Strangely author Rebecca Makkai is able to voice so many different characters and they all seem to be authentic. The styles vary and as do the settings. I cannot say I enjoyed all of the stories, but I guess that is the great thing about a collection. Some you love, some you like, some you dislike and then there is the one or two that you scratch your head and say why.

My favorite stories were the ones that were “legends”. Glimpses into the author’s family and their history were very compelling and most enjoyable. Some of the other tales were bound to be influenced by her family and their own journeys. This author was able to portray so many different themes, characters and settings. Very entertaining for sure. Some of the stories were sad and even depressing. Others were humorous and uplifting. Quirkiness and oddity was prevalent in quite a few stories. “A Couple of Lovers On a Red Background” was definitely a bit out there. “Suspension: April 20, 1084” was an interesting perspective of life before, after and while a photograph was taken.

While there are a few not my taste stories in Music for Wartime for the majority, the stories were entertaining, witty, and thought provoking. A lot of them centered on how one small action can affect everything else to come. As I said, Rebecca Makkai is able to voice so many different characters and opinions, a true rare talent. Overall this is a wonderful little snack of varied tastes and textures. I would recommend this wonderful collection of short stories to those who like assortments of subjects and a lot of wit and insight. This is truly a great example of the author’s talents and imagination. The good thing about short stories is that if you do find one that does not catch your fancy, it will be done in no time at all. The bad thing, if you love one of them, it is over before you can dig in deep. All in all, Rebecca Makkai has written a fabulous collection of short stories.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*