Wendy J. Fox’s collection of interconnected short stories, What If We Were Somewhere Else, follows the employees of a nondescript office through their relationships, layoffs, and changes in life circumstances. Some of the stories are in first person, others are in third person, but each has their own personality and voice, so it’s not too hard to keep track of who’s who. You get each character’s perspective at least twice throughout the book, and the characters pop up in each other’s stories as well.
I found Melissa’s story most compelling, hearing about the commune she’d grown up in, what it was like to leave and eventually return home, and the impact of these choices on her life. I was also deeply moved by Laird’s friendship with Cale. And then there’s “The Human” three stories from the end, which focuses on Michael. This story, and only this story, takes a turn into a near-future subtle dystopia and eventual apocalypse. This change in setting and time is oh-so-casual and somewhat quiet, which helped it deliver a huge punch, especially at the end. I would have enjoyed ending the entire collection with this story (because wow that ending!), but also found myself appreciating the gentle return to reality in the last two stories of the book.
If you’re like me, sometimes you get in the mood for good people stories. Nothing too intense, nothing too fast-paced, just something slice-of-life with a lot of heart. What If We Were Somewhere Else is perfect for those days.