There’s a space between what was and what’s next, where memory comforts and disheartens. The varied protagonists in these character-driven stories live in that undertow: the doctoral student stuck in the memory of a brief sexual experience; the woman recognizing her younger self in a photograph, but confused by the crone who stares back at her from a mirror; the widower, more comfortable among strangers than friends because he doesn’t have to apologize for his loneliness — encounters that open the floodgates.
Stripped of the unessential, these Hemingwayesque stories reach brilliantly into our chaotic 21st century post-modernism when technology mediates human relationship, the old mores are in dramatic decline, and gender fluidity is on the rise. In rich muscular prose Sgambati illuminates the lingering power of the past, of same sex lovers in a more closeted time, of a teen undergoing sex reassignment, and aging narrators confronting the loss of their physical and mental prowess. Sgambati probes with the humanism of a Junot Diaz the solitary men and women who briefly connect with another and the fleetingness of that connection. “Like the jumpy frames in a silent movie, Owen appeared, then vanished, then reappeared, until the train passed, and then in its wake, we lay tangled and smelling of sex.” By turns lyrical, bittersweet, tragic, and celebratory, this is a necessary book that deserves a wide and eager readership.
—Stephanie Dickinson, author of Girl Behind the Door and The Emily Fables
Vince Sgmbati’s collection is a tour through the back alleys of humanity searching for connection. Some of his stories take us through several decades, to watch the unfolding of lives; some capture people in flux or trapped or hidden. His stories are gently told, often in multiple voices, each given the space to tell their side of the story until the sometimes sad and often beautiful picture of people connecting as best they can emerges. It felt like flipping through an old photo album, each image revealed to be much more than it seems.
—tammy lynne stoner, author of Sugar Land—IPPY Award and Advocate’s Best of 2018
Undertow of Memory will leave you breathless with its subtle beauty and frank, powerful storytelling. You won’t want to escape this undertow. You will want to submerge in it, let Sgambati take you to the very special memories that lie in its wake. Each story presents real, complex characters faced with new life challenges informed or haunted by resurfaced past experiences. Aging, loss, transformation, regrets, all the unspoken underpinnings of life receive a voice in Sgambati’s masterfully poetic prose. Whether set in a small town or New York City, his stories ignore the bombast of modern life and focus on the whispers of hearts in anguish, seeking resolution. He gives voice to often unspoken emotions making for very powerful storytelling. A triumph of the soft yet potent touch, you will want to revisit the stories and characters in Sgambati’s Undertow of Memory again and again.
—Gar McVey-Russell, author, Sin Against the Race
About the Author
Vince Sgambati’s debut novel, Most Precious Blood, was a Forward Indies Finalist in literary fiction, 2018, and a Central New York Book Awards Finalist. His short stories have been recognized by the Nimrod Literary Awards: the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and the Saints and Sinners Fiction Contest (2013 & 2016). His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in North American Review, Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, Gertrude, Off the Rocks, Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival, Queer and Catholic, Journal of GLBT Family Studies, and Lavender Magazine, where he wrote a regular column on Queer Parenting. Vince is a former teacher in urban public schools, long-time social justice activist, and currently makes his home in the Finger Lakes area of Central New York and in New York City.