The Sleep of Apples: Stories


short fiction by Ami Sands Brodoff

Print: 978-1-77133-881-3 – $22.95
ePUB: 978-1-77133-882-0 – $11.99
PDF: 978-1-77133-883-7 – $11.99
184 Pages
September 30, 2021

Finalist, 2022 International Book Awards – Fiction – Short Story

In The Sleep of Apples, Ami Sands Brodoff writes with passion and consummate skill about nine closely linked characters who walk the tightrope of survival. Set in a gritty Montreal neighbourhood that’s been slowly gentrifying over the last two decades, troubled teenagers and an experienced psychiatrist, a truck driver permanently scarred by a near-fatal accident and a recreation therapist struggle to build a community and make their lives—and their deaths—meaningful. Fierce, original and bracingly honest, these unforgettable stories speak to the author’s Jewish heritage, her experience as a cancer survivor and as loving mother to a gay son and a transgender son. The stories dramatize that families are what we create, not necessarily those we are born into, illuminating how we all live imperfect lives: We love what we have and mourn what we’ve lost. Readers are witnesses as these indelible characters gain strength, insight and empathy through their struggles and suffering. They each bear the scars of trauma but possess the gift of resilience.

The Sleep of Apples is masterfully spare and rich, full of love, quakingly honest. Ami Sands Brodoff’s intricately-linked stories show us the ties between parents and children; a brief love between strangers; a tangling threesome; and a couple of teenagers broken by tragedy—just to name a few of the complex, enduring and delicate relationships in this collection. The spectre of death floats over these stories, reminding us of what it means “to be wide awake, here, unbearably happy.” Brodoff’s stories are sparklers held up in the dark—brief, fierce and bold.”
—Lisa Moore, award-winning author of Something for Everyone

“With The Sleep of Apples, Ami Sands Brodoff’s gifts of nuance, insight, and clarity bring us into communion with the fierce, tender solitudes of contemporary lives humbled and remade by grief and love. These deeply intimate and interlinked portraits, evoked with radiant lyricism, and displaying an impressive range of voices, ring with the force of truth.”
—Elise Levine, author of This Wicked Tongue and Blue Field

“Ami Sands Brodoff’s stories ripple with wisdom and humour, alive with subtle observations and attention to the details of relationships. These stories range widely, fleshing out themes of mental health, family, and gender, taking us inside the minds of an experienced psychiatrist and a depressed teenager with equal empathy. These interconnected stories reach out for each other, forming a dense web of compassion.”
—Alex Leslie, Winner, award-winning autho of We All Need To Eat and Vancouver for Beginners

“Magnificent. The Sleep of Apples exposes the consequences of being different, of risking tenderness, of illness and of grief. Ami Sands Brodoff speaks to the realities of our world in captivating and finely-rendered prose that reflects the sure hand of an accomplished novelist. We fall in love with the recurring characters, we are haunted by their pain, we root for them, and celebrate moments of grace when they transcend the suffering that life flings their way.”
—Cora Siré, author of Behold Things Beautiful

The Sleep of Apples is such a powerful collection. Encompassing voices of loss, mourning, birth, and spirituality, an extraordinary group of interconnected characters work to discover their identities. Brodoff’s writing is eloquent and illuminating. Reading these stories made me long to revisit them again and again. You will too.”
—Hasan Namir, award-winning author of God In Pink and War/Torn

The Sleep of Apples: Stories

Ami Sands Brodoff is the award-winning author of three novels and two volumes of stories. Her latest novel, In Many Waters, grapples with our worldwide refugee crisis. The White Space Between, which focuses on a mother and daughter struggling with the impact of the Holocaust, won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction (The Vine Award). Bloodknots, a volume of thematically-linked stories, was a finalist for The Re-Lit Award. Ami leads creative writing workshops to teens, adults, and seniors. She has also taught writing to formerly incarcerated women and to people grappling with mental illness. Ami has been awarded fellowships to Yaddo, The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragdale Foundation, and St. James Cavalier Arts Centre (Malta). Ami lives in Montreal. The Sleep of Apples is her third short fiction collection. www.amisandsbrodoff.com

4 reviews for The Sleep of Apples: Stories

  1. Inanna Admin

    Songs from Beyond
    The Sleep of Apples by Ami Sands Brodoff
    reviewed by Kimberly Bourgeois
    The Montreal Review of Books – summer 2021 issue

    The Sleep of Apples is a love song to my home city: Montreal,” writes Ami Sands Brodoff in her acknowledgements. And what a potent number she delivers in this emotionally charged collection of linked short fiction! Here, Montreal shimmies and shines, enveloped in carefully crafted lines that beg to live out loud, rolling off the tongue like lyrics laced with longing. Mellifluous, poetic prose lilts and tilts back around, each character resurfacing in subsequent stories like the hook in a chorus, gaining momentum with every cycle.

    The title, a nod to Federico García Lorca’s poem “Gacela of the Dark Death,” sets the tone, foreshadowing the book’s primary themes: love, life, and death. In these achingly beautiful stories, death dances circles around life, yet only accentuates the pure preciousness of being alive.

    The book’s structure also emphasizes life’s cyclical nature by opening and closing with stories about a character named Miri. In “What’s Mine is Yours,” eight-year-old Miri loses her beloved Bubbe to the flu, and is burdened with guilt over the possibility that she may have inadvertently infected her grandmother with close contact and hugs. (This story feels especially relevant in the age of COVID-19, when physical proximity is largely discouraged owing to the associated risks.) Miri’s conscience is further bogged down by intergenerational trauma when she inherits an extra dose of shame from her father, a physician, over an earlier family loss kept secret.

    In the title story, adult Miri has followed in her father’s footprints, choosing a healing profession. As a psychiatrist, she wishes to ease suffering, and receives characters from other stories into her practice, when, all too soon, she is confronted with her own mortality. Unexpectedly, a dire diagnosis – advanced ovarian cancer – serves as a catalyst for awakening. She experiences “a second birth” when treatments buy her time, her appreciation for the everyday heightened by her own ephemerality: “Coming out of my isolation and winter’s palette of gray, black, and white, the vivid hues of the flowers, even the cars, the greens – so many greens – pulsed.”

    Throughout the book, characters from diverse cultural backgrounds each take their turn narrating, offering a variety of voices and views, rousing empathy in the reader. A common thread – tragedy – twists through their lives, interwoven with the author’s keen sense of aesthetics. In “Will the World Pause for Me?,” striking images flood the imagination while Morgan, an artistically gifted teen who struggles with schizophrenia, further enlivens the text with sonic swirls of synesthesia: “Rainbow is swishing sweeping swelling. Yellow is beep, beep. Blue, waves rolling in, crashing tin. Red, a scream, which is why they call it bloodcurdling. Mom’s voice silvery, Dad’s a rock: hard, geologic.”

    In “Aurora,” one of the book’s most exquisitely heart-wrenching stories, twenty-six-year-old, gender-fluid, non- binary Collier returns to a childhood treehouse and relives their mother’s untimely death. “Did you jump or fall? Fall or jump, jump or fall?,” Collier still wonders, ten years after the fact. Up “above the petty world,” the veil between life and death is thinner than air, and Aurora (Collier’s mother), who’d once dreamed of being a nightclub singer, turns up as a bird she’d sung about while alive.

    Similarly, in “Shivah,” Rachel leaves candy kisses on her surviving wife’s pillow after succumbing to breast cancer, a hint that love and healing transcend the grave. In The Sleep of Apples, the departed seep through time and space, explicitly or in memories, like favourite songs aboard love-lit radio airwaves. And thanks to Sands Brodoff’s endearing cast, readers come away humming with insights on the inextricability of life and death.

  2. Inanna Admin

    The Sleep of Apples by Ami Sands Brodoff
    reviewed by Alison Manley
    The Miramichi Reader – September 5, 2021

    In the Saint-Henri neighbourhood of Montreal, nine linked people – lovers, friends, spouses, parents, kids, and strangers – have their stories told in the twelve short stories in Ami Sands Brodoff’s The Sleep of Apples. I always enjoy linked short stories, with overlapping characters, because I always treat it as a game to figure out who’s connected to who and who flits between each story and how. The Sleep of Apples absolutely scratches this itch. Brodoff invites us into the neighbourhood, introducing us to the different generations and their lives over time, beginning with Miri as a child, learning the truth about her father and role model, to the titular story at the end of the book, following Miri in her dying days, coming to terms with the end of her life and work – all the while other characters flit in and out of the main stage, linked as friends and classmates, neighbours and caregivers, and even witnesses to the death of another character’s mother. Each story is its own world inside the neighbourhood, with previous main characters stepping back and becoming part of the background in the next story. This is something I think Brodoff does very well here: creating a realistic, well-rounded cast of characters with sometimes only the slightest of linkages, or decades of time between each story.

    There’s a lot happening in these stories: struggling with fertility, sexuality, gender identity, mental illness, mortality, terminal illness, and estrangement. Occasionally I wished that a story had been a little longer – there were a few pieces where I felt things would have flowed better if they had been longer. However, Brodoff excelled in her treatment of these incredibly complex and delicate subjects, navigating the different feelings of her characters and their opposing viewpoints with compassion and sensitivity.

    Ultimately, I liked The Sleep of Apples, though some arcs were certainly more compelling than others. However, the stories were all of a similar quality and tenderness. My personal favourite was “Private Practice,” where Miri, now a psychiatrist, meets with Rachel and Natalie about their son, JF. Rachel and Natalie first appeared in the second story, “The Arrangement,” where Natalie and her then-husband, Guy, ask Rachel’s help when they’re having trouble conceiving – a request which changes their relationships forever. It was these clever and seamless links between the stories which really made this book for me. A full, rich working-class community in the midst of gentrification, Saint-Henri is the loving background character in all of the stories in this collection, acting as the tool Brodoff uses to smudge the line between short stories and a novel and provide a solid continuity. The Sleep of Apples is a wonderful read for anyone interested in community.

  3. Inanna Admin

    The Sleep of Apples by Ami Sands Brodoff
    reviewed by Ali’s Book Club – CTV Saskatoon
    September 20, 2021
    Watch: https://youtu.be/SVTvg_2EAd0

    “[The Sleep of Apples] really brings to life a depth and resonance…you can read just one or you can spend time and explore the whole world. It works really well as a collection of short stories.”

  4. Inanna Admin

    The Sleep of Apples by Ami Sands Brodoff
    reviewed by Maya Khankhoje
    Herizons Magazine – April 2022 (print)

    The Sleep of Apples is a collection of linked stories by Montreal author Ami Sands Brodoff. It takes its name from “Gacela of the Dark Death,” a ghazal or ode to love by Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, whose life was cut short at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War for loving freedom and loving men. This choice is not a coincidence.; the author is well-acquainted with the marginalized who struggle to free themselves from a normative society that does not always understand them. Sands Brodoff does understand and, in fact, loves her characters.

    The book opens with the story of loss, of Bubbe, a grandmother. This account then introduces the rest of the protagonists who belong to different generations and face different predicaments, but are also linked to each other by blood, friendship, love or simple human solidarity. The author skillfully describes a stable marriage that turns into a threesome, which, in turn, morphs into a gay couple, the product of who is a child who, in turn…well, you get the picture. Other issues dealt with in this nuanced and humane book include surrogacy, suicide, drugs, gender re-assignation, climate change, and euthanasia.

    These portraits are drawn against the backdrop of a Montreal working-class district along the Lachine canal, whit forays into the upper-class neighbourhood of Westmount. Important landmarks of the city provide a deeply-felt sense of place for the Jewish community, which forms a vital part of the characters’ lives.

    As a reviewer, I normally like to finish a book as quickly as I can and then write down my impressions while they are still fresh in my mind. In this case, I was forced to take long breaks because the characters were so compelling that I needed closure before moving to the next one. Ami Sands Brodoff’s writing is like a sea teeming with life. Dare to wade into it and you will discover, as the character Miri does, that you “heart is bursting, mind floating free.”

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