Like a Charm
Like a Charm is a collection of sixteen stories that are all connected by a piece of jewelry—a bracelet decorated with different charms. Edited by Karin Slaughter (who frames the collection by contributing the beginning and ending stories), each story centers around this bracelet as it is passed from one person to the next (although the stories themselves are self-contained). Like another famous piece of jewelry, the Hope Diamond, the bracelet brings the characters in each story bad luck or misfortune. Two of the best stories are John Connolly’s “The Inkpot Monkey,” about a writer suffering from writer’s block, and Laura Lippman’s “Not Quite U.” which is about a woman in college who discovers she may have a sister she did not know existed.
These are all good stories in their own way, but a lot of them would be better if they did not have to use the recurring theme of the bracelet—at times it serves more as a distraction rather than an enhancement and weakens an otherwise strong story. There is also the fact that Like a Charm is subtitled as a “novel,” which is questionable: for a short story collection to be considered a novel it must have more of a connection between the stories other than a single inanimate object. There is not even a framing device used that ties all of the stories together. There are no subordinate parts in novels; if chapters were removed, a novel would not make sense and fall apart. That is not the case here. Removing some stories would only make Like a Charm a shorter collection.
Overall, Like a Charm is a nice read, but enjoy it as a short story collection.