“He wants to tell her that when things vanish they become something else, in death, we rise again in the blades of grass, the splitting bodies of seeds.” ― Anthony Doerr, The Shell Collector
I very rarely if ever pick up a book of short stories for a read. I had no idea that “The Shell collector’ was a collection of short stories because I didn’t read the blurb before I began to read this book.
I remember seeing it a lot on Bookstagram and I admit the cover is one of the main reasons I decided to pick it up. I’ve always been someone who loves visiting museums especially the Natural History exhibits. I can never really tire of museums and looking at specimens. Through this collection of stories, Antony Doerr gives us a new perception of this act of being spectators of specimens pinned up on a board.
The title “The Shell Collector” made me very curious about this book and was also in part a reason why I picked it up. But the tales I found inside were truly an unexpected lot. I was suddenly introduced to a whole range of characters: a blind shell collector who lives by himself on a Muslim-populated island, a caretaker and ex-convict from Africa who attempts to befriend a deaf girl in the states, a group of Americans who try to outsmart the British in a serious game of angling, a fantastical tale about the relationship between a hunter and his empathetic wife, a girl who elopes with a metal-eating man in order to tour the world as part of a freak show. On the whole, it gives us a glimpse into the most unusual of human souls.
If there’s a single story I thought that this book is worth buying for, it’s the first one in the collection, “The Shell Collector” itself. I felt like the collection was put together with a great deal of thought. The stories are embedded with meaning both individually and collectively. The shell collector makes us more aware of our existence than ever.
Almost all the stories appear to run a theme that has to do with the cyclical nature of life and death of all beings. The stories are fluid and the writing, organic. But the final story Mkondo, really struck a chord with me. It’s about a museum curator/archeologist and a free-spirited Tanzanian woman who fall in love but meet challenges when they find themselves displaced from their respective geographical environs. I’d recommend this book to anybody who loves to read about the world, its natural history, and the kinds of people who inhabit it. The Shell Collector is perfect for anyone who wants to feel a great deal when they read a book. The writing is beautiful and oozes Doerr’s signature style.