The Sleep of Apples: Stories

short fiction by Ami Sands Brodoff

Print: 978-1-77133-881-3
184 Pages
September 30, 2021

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

1 review 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.

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