When it happens to you, run for the hills
Just kidding. There is a recurring passage and theme in this collection of short stories written by iconic 80s actress Molly Ringwald:
When it happens to you, you will be surprised. That thing they say about how you knew all the time, but just weren't facing it? That might be the case, but nevertheless, there you will be.
Well, that is sufficiently ominous and vague, isn't it? You might be thinking, "Where will I be? Living next door to a serial killer? Running from a grizzly bear? What wasn't I facing? Should I be stockpiling rations in preparation for the apocalypse?"
Unfortunately, the above passage doesn't really take in the tone of When It Happens to You. Rather, the situations presented in this collection are very relatable and probably the scenarios anyone might say they knew all the time but weren't facing, like financial problems, drug addiction or spousal infidelity.
The first two stories in this collection are a bit dreary, but overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the author's talent at capturing everyday details and connecting the reader with the various characters. Each short story is inter-related, many characters overlap and a recognizable timeline is followed. This makes for a reading experience that grows with each story, as you wait to see who is going to show up again and what's transpired since the last time they appeared. I especially liked the stories "My Olivia" about a little boy named Oliver who thinks of himself as a girl and "The Little One" about an elderly woman whose love for her husband so consumes her that there is not enough love to go around for her daughter.
Ringwald exposes the intricacies of pain and heartache and excels at creating likeable characters. I don't read a lot of short stories, but I was fond of Ringwald's nonfiction book Getting the Pretty Back: Family, Friendships and Finding the Perfect Lipstick and thought I'd give this collection a go. It's smart, thoughtful and satisfying in its normalcy.