Edie Meidav's collection of short stories Kingdom of the Young transports readers to unconventional experiences and submerged feelings of the past. Divided into three sections "Believers," "Knaves," and "Dreamers" and culminating in a nonfiction coda of two essays, these stories take the Samuel Ullman quote "Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind" to heart.
In a stream of conscious-style narrative similar to Jonathan Safran Foer, Meidav's stories range in subject matter from fallen friendships in "Quincenera" to a royal father's letter in offering parenting advice to his estranged pregnant daughter in "I Never Had Any Problem With You." With delicate and poignant prose, the first sentence of the eponymous story has you hooked: "He is marching but losing the point, the rest of us falling behind the leader who can't help the slightly affected pointing lift of his left foot as he marches." As the pages unfold, Meidav transports you to a dystopian-like child army whose commander is now 30—the wrong age. Speaking to the inner fear we all have of growing up, this narrative questions the true weight of time and such numbers.
Throughout this collection, the idea of the ticking clock is brought up again and again. In "The Golden Rule; Or, I Am Only Trying to Do the Right Thing" we meet a man suffering from dementia. His now unrepressed sexual desires earn him the nickname the Groper at the hospital. While he is in the final stages of his life, his wife, Hummingbird, watches him live out his own personal hell—finding herself in a purgatory state between the past and present, wondering what her own inferno will be like.
The passing of time is further examined in "Koi," where children Pint and Shayna develop a friendship only to eventually lose contact. Years later, when Shayna sends Pint a birthday present, the two reconnect, a wish Pint's been praying to come true her entire life. However, "on the train ride home, one girl will keep asking herself whether even that moment mattered."
And then, in the last 50-or-so pages, the compilation's "Coda," we get a peek into some of the moments that mattered in Meidav's life herself. As she so delicately declares in her first essay "Questions of Travel," "who knows what youth is really looking for?" We learn of romanticized and revisited trips to Barcelona and estranged lovers from Granada—perhaps the basis to her earlier story "Romance; or Blind in Granada." This essay leaves you in a dream-like sequence wondering, as Meidav does "to travel well, must you live behind the self you thought you were coming to see?" The Barcelona she experienced in her youth is not nearly comparable to the Barcelona she shares with her family, years later, questioning as her other stories have, the correlation between perception and memory and time and love.
With a book so focused on unfolding snippets—moments—from the lives of others, it is only fitting that Meidav's final essay "Daughter of California" is an elegy to her father. In the final pages of a compilation that takes you through reflections in hospital wards, bittersweet-friendship endings and the streets of Havana, a penultimate goodbye is cherished: "And until that moment I had not realized that every person has stored within, some finite amount of goodbyes for each person who matters and that right now, despite all brink moments and prior goodbyes, I was about to use up the last goodbye, tagged for him alone." While Meidav reflects upon her father's dying days, she is transported back to memories of California—her own kingdom of youth.