Sunny's bookshelf
Sunny's bookshelf photo by Judy Solomon

Online book reviews since 2011, the very best in reviewing – connecting good readers with equally good writers

date of disappearance assorted stories

Sign up to receive our latest reviews by email

Let me preface this review by saying that I’m not a great fan of short stories. That’s a result, I think, of teaching too many sophomore survey English courses where short fiction dominated every textbook every year. And too often they were the same stories—penned by Hawthorne and Hemingway and a handful of others—over and over again. I can’t recall the last time I voluntarily picked up a collection of short stories by choice. So I am grateful to “Bookin’ with Sunny” for putting date of disappearance in my hands. That’s not a typo, by the way. A title without capitalization, just as there’s no need for exclamation marks in any of these subtle, sensitive tales of ordinary people caught in climactic moments of their everyday lives. Not only are their situations eminently readable, but they’re unforgettable. I find myself still musing about Cunningham’s characters long after their stories have concluded.

His range is remarkable. Cunningham captures the elderly, the very young, men and women, the heroes, the nerds, successes and middle-aged failures. One character explains the dilemma faced by each and every one of them. She’s “learned this much: you meet a thousand potential catastrophes a day. Your handling of one small event determines the impact of the next. In theory you should be able to maintain control, to govern your responses, construct optimum results. But the fact remains that every event is a monumental event disguised. It may seem insignificant, forgettable, nothing to fear—no, it’s nitroglycerine.” That nitro moment can be explosive, or it can be a slow fizzle that’s more destructive in the long run. Not tragic, necessarily, but significantly monumental (Cunningham’s italics, not mine).

Although a thematic constancy echoes throughout the collection, the stories are not at all alike. One takes place in a cantankerous nursing home, another in the bedroom of an evangelical preacher, a third in a love-sick adolescent’s mind, a fourth in a cluttered antique store, a fifth in a taxidermist’s creative imagination. There are ten in all, each set in California. But every incident occurs in a separate landscape and explores a different emotional terrain. As the taxidermist does with his animals, Cunningham arranges his characters on dramatic display, fixing their bodies at the moment of a demise of one kind or another. That demise varies from tale to tale, sometimes physical and sometimes emotional, but there’s always one constant. Cunningham and his readers get inside the skins of everyone who populates his stories.

The “Bookin’ with Sunny” copy of date of disappearance comes with a bonus. A limited edition signed by the author, it also includes ink-and-charcoal illustrations by Nathan Shields. These artistic impressions echo the stories visually and capture a sadness that fits the overall tenor of the book. A lonely moon-lit mountain scene, a dropped telephone, an empty plate with an empty wineglass left alongside. Adversity and misfortune woven together, time and again, stringing ten literary gems together. And precious gems they are, these monumental short stories that have made me revisit my long-standing reluctance to read the genre.                                 -A.R.

Add your thoughts and comments...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this Review

Related Reviews

Dreamers of the Day

Dreamers of the Day

Dreamers of the Day is Mary Doria Russell’s novel that is as fresh if not fresher today than when first published in 2008. Mary Doria Russell’s

Read More »
Facing The Mountain

Facing The Mountain

    Daniel James Brown’s Facing the Mountain, A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II, is the rich telling of the plight faced

Read More »

The God of  Endings

Jacqueline Hollands’s debut novel, The God of  Endings, reveals the loneliness of the life of an unwilling vampire. Jacqueline Holland’s debut novel, The God of Endings, follows

Read More »

About the Reviewer

Sign up for reviews by email

You’ll get email updates from Bookin’ with Sunny when we add a new review or blog post, and we never share your email with anyone else.

Shopping in-store Fun!

Support your local community’s economic growth by shopping for books at your independent bookstore in person, online at their website, or by phone.