All Visions of Blind Love

Reviewed by Brian Greene, freelance book reviewer for Macmillan Publishing and 25+ publications and award-winning short fiction writer

What distinguishes Cynthia Benson’s writing is its duality of being bold yet graceful. She bravely enters the most vulnerable places in her characters’ minds and hearts, but she probes with a light (although penetrating) touch. Just about any reader should find something they can relate to in the universal truths brought to light in this collection of stories, which primarily examines the human condition through people’s varied experiences with loving others.

The stories peer in on the intimacy of people’s lives. In her city apartment, a woman ritualistically dons elaborate costumes sent from a mysterious gifter. A teenage invalid farm girl is aroused as she lies watching a dangerous stranger hired to paint her bedroom. A Middle Eastern refugee doctor, working as a janitor at an American high-tech firm, hopes an H.R. rep will be the one to ignite his aching widower’s heart. The collection travels across boundaries of geography and time. A young Colombian signs on as a cruise ship waiter to escape his family’s cartel and start a new life with his love in Spain. An African woman pines for her ex-husband who scarred her face with acid. In 1960s Greenwich Village and Alphabet City, a naive idealist has life-changing encounters. And a Polish girl meets her perfect love at a bus stop on a rainy day. In All Visions of Blind Love the hearts of 25 characters from 25 very different lives are bared for the reader.

What melds many of the stories together is their focus on eye opening, sometimes life changing, moments in the characters’ existences. Benson has a keen grasp on capturing episodes in people’s lives that might seem haphazard when they begin, but that wind up leaving permanent impressions on the mental and emotional states of those involved. Oftentimes in her tales these critical occurrences result in disillusionment for a character; and while deftly shining a light on how that happens, Benson often seems to suggest that the wounded person will now carry more wisdom around, along with their hurts.

Benson is impressively economical in her writing. Her stories get right to the point and never lose focus. Her ability to create atmosphere a reader can feel, while telling a story a reader will be moved by, with a relatively small number of words, is nothing short of a gift.