Silver Water Critical Overview
by Amy Bloom

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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

Before becoming a successful author, Bloom worked full-time as a psychotherapist, and numerous critics have pointed out that her understanding of human foibles and quirks and her respect for the power of love shines through in her fiction. Bloom’s collection of short stories and her first published book, 1993’s Come to Me, was noted for its sensitivity as well as its collection of characters, many of whom suffered from some kind of pathology. Her stories focus on, among others, a transvestite, a schizophrenic, a voyeur, a delusional wife, an incestuous relationship, and a pedophiliac; as Jeanne Schinto writes in her review in Belles Letters, Bloom writes about characters who ‘‘exhibit all the symptoms for which people might seek psychotherapy.’’ Indeed, therapists appear in a number of Bloom’s stories. However, as Robert Phillips also notes in The Hudson Review, Bloom is ‘‘comfortable with the odd, the perverse, even the forbidden. Her deviants are basically people like you and me, only their needs to be loved or appreciated are more open or more extreme.’’

However, as Schinto points out, Bloom is as equally concerned with ‘‘the beauty beneath the bizarre,’’ which her fine writing highlights. Another key concern for Bloom is the dynamics of family, which Anne Whitehouse of the New York Times Book Review notes, she writes about ‘‘with insight, sympathy and verve.’’ Whitehouse further contends that in Come to Me, Bloom ‘‘has created engaging, candid and unorthodox characters, and has vividly revealed their inner lives. . . . Her voice is sure and brisk, her language often beautiful.’’ Sally S. Eckhoff, writing for the Village Voice Literary Supplement, further finds that in her stories Bloom ‘‘shyly puts forth the idea that love is the religion of family life, and family life, far from being an elaborate cell from which we dream of the rest of the world, is heart’s blood and inspiration.’’

In Bloom’s exploration of family, she focuses three of her stories on the family that appears in ‘‘Silver Water.’’ Thus, in reading the entire collection, the reader also becomes acquainted with the father as a young boy and the mother as an unhappy wife. While Daniel McGuines subtly critiques Bloom in Studies in Short Fiction for not writing a novel about this family, in lieu of these short stories, other reviewers were kinder to Bloom on the subject. As Whitehouse writes, the inclusion of different glimpses of the same people suggests a ‘‘complex web of relationships and concerns and how they have changed over time.’’

‘‘Silver Water,’’ which appeared in 1992’s Best American Short Stories volume, has been called out by reviewers and readers for its many qualities. Schinto called it a ‘‘luminous story’’ and certainly one of Bloom’s ‘‘best.’’ Richard Eder’s, of the Los Angeles Times Book Review called the story ‘‘stunning’’ and one of the...

(The entire section is 711 words.)