So we all know the author of this collection died tragically at age 22 shortly after her graduation from Yale. Knowing this, any criticism I give this collection is probably going to make me sound like an jerk. But at the risk of sounding like an jerk, here we go. None of these stories, fiction or nonfiction, are bad, by any stretch of the imagination. How they read, however, is like a collection of writings by a 22 year old; someone who hasn't quite found her voice yet and whose writing would almost certainly improve with time and practice. Her nonfiction pieces especially read as though written by a student, with little to recommend them re: prose and rather simplistic structures. The farther I got into the book the less involved I got in the stories. Again, none of them are BAD, but it's not a quality of writing I would normally be excited to pay money to read. (I think there's also a discussion to be had on her level of privilege and how that affected the publication and publicity afforded this collection, but better minds than me can probably articulate that discussion more clearly than I).
Clearly Keegan was a very likeable and hardworking woman (as evidenced by the glowing praise afforded her in the multiple parts of this book written by others; her high school English teacher says that "Michael Ondaatje could have mistaken her prose for his own" which allllllllllright I guess there's a time and place for hyperbole in situations like this but honestly). In the introduction, Anne Fadiman explains "she would want to be remembered because she's good." Good enough to be published off the strength of this particular collection? Probably not. This, of course, makes her death all the more tragic, as there are moments in these stories that show evidence of the writer she would have become, who I think would certainly have been compelling.