All the Names They Used for God, Anjali Sachdeva’s debut release, is a stellar collection of short stories that explores the strangeness that is the human experience and our small stature in the vastness of the cosmos. Rewards abound for the short story lover: science gone awry in “Pleiades”; abandonment and love gone wrong in “Anything You Might Want”; man versus wild (and the call of suicide) in “Logging Lake.” These are intricate, spinning tales that took me off guard.
Does this collection have a theme? I don’t know. Perhaps spirituality is the link (and there is the title to be considered); these stories do ponder the concept of a God and how much say he — or it — has over our lives . . . and how much of what happens to us is pure chance. Bits of magical realism abound (see mermaid tale “Robert Greenman and the Mermaid”), but overall these tales are unwavering, realistic looks at the human condition.
I was pleasantly surprised by these stories. I suspected I would like this collection, but I was knocked for a loop. Compelling and challenging in equal measure, this author is one to watch. I await her next release with baited breath.
Thanks to Netgalley and Spiegal & Grau for the advanced reader’s copy!