“Grand Central”: Postwar stories from one of the old familiar places

Grand Central

I’ve just started reading Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (2014), a newly-released anthology of short stories by ten writers, with the iconic train station playing a role in each one. Last night I read “The Lucky One” by Jenna Blum, author of two very successful novels, Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers. I count Jenna among my dear friends, so perhaps I’m biased, but if her contribution is a harbinger of things to come, I’m in for a treat.

I began with Jenna’s story because, well, I saw it as sort of a test. WWII. Train station. Love and reunion. In the wrong hands, such a collection could easily become a soggy nostalgia fest, conjuring up images of a couple having a final embrace before the one left behind runs along the departing train. Because I’m a big fan of Jenna’s work, I figured her story would give me an idea of what to expect.

Jenna’s “The Lucky One” is about a Jewish concentration camp survivor who works at Grand Central’s famous Oyster Bar restaurant. He sees a customer who looks like his late mother. . . .

Enough said. I’ll simply opine that “The Lucky One” is a superb, knowing, heartfelt contribution from a writer whose ability to tell a great story with nuanced emotional intelligence is one of her distinguishing gifts. It also is the work of someone who learned about the Holocaust by interviewing survivors for Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah history project. Jenna has infused a lot of historical understanding into her short story.

Okay folks, I know I’m betraying my own limitations when I confess that I cannot recall ever diving into a volume of short stories with a cover showing a couple kissing in a train station! But I will be the loser if I don’t spend more time with this one. And I have a strong feeling that the next time I step into Grand Central Station, some of these tales will come to mind.

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