Early in Susan Tepper’s brilliant collection of short fiction, Dear Petrov, her unnamed narrator asks, “Dear Petrov. Can you not take in, just out of range, a lady of wistful yearning. Who, by her own submission, adores you out of reach.” And so begins a mesmerizing and poignant spiritual journey into the heart and soul of a woman whose world has been turned upside down by the man she’s enamored with. We’re not sure if she’s waiting for her lover to come home from war or perhaps if he’s ever coming back. However, that’s not important. Although we the reader are not sure who he is that doesn’t make any difference because Petrov represents all the want in this world; he becomes the embodiment of one’s hopes, fears, desires, loneliness, loves, successes, and failures.
The language is rich and evocative. Open up the book and choose any story and you will be moved by Tepper’s use of language and emotions evoked by the imagery. “I have grown my fingers into claws, in order to shimmy up trees and watch for you,” she writes in “Shimmy” which exudes narrator’s deep-rooted longing for Petrov. “All day I watch for you. I hang by my nails dug into tree bark. The forest is summer tangle, while I’m this cawing bird.” This is brilliant writing. We, as the reader, get caught up in the gamut of emotions and imagery from one story to the next.
These are stories to savor and reflect upon over and over again. I haven’t been moved by a collection of stories like these in a very long time. There’s a reason for that. In the end, Dear Petrov speaks for us all.