An affecting and poignant collection of short stories, each of them featuring strong characterization and a struggle, of some sort, with deep and emotional impact, arising out of the kinds of quandaries ordinary people – people just like us – can end-up finding themselves lost in.
Several of the stories, heart-tuggingly moving in their quietly-evocative treatment of characters suffering from the ravages of grief, loss, loneliness and despair, stood out for me in this collection, including the excellent cover-story, “Peripheral Visions”, which tells the tale of an isolated elderly woman, embracing suddenly-visible possibilities in a life long-mired in stagnation.
I also very much enjoyed “The Flowerbed”, a delicately-nuanced tale of the relentless cruelty of abuse, confronted with a sudden showing of the unexpected and tender shoots of hope.
In “Boxing Life”, another favorite, a widow prepares to face her new life and new identify, as she boxes up her memories and her defining past, seeking solace, or at least, an emotional footing to sustain her.
Not afraid to deal with the difficult and the daunting, the author deftly blends humor, of the dark and macabre sort, in “Till Death Do us Part”, and widens her reach to touch on themes including child abuse, kidnapping, the loss of a child, dementia, cancer, drugs, prostitution and rape.
(Note: It’s the opinion, however, of this reader, a passionate animal-advocate, that the references to animal abuse, described in a lighthearted manner in two of the stories, involving piglets and small furry dogs, are not joking material and could have been omitted).
In “Lucinda and the Christmas List”, an uplifting sort of Christmas fable, an entirely new tone is set, – one that continues to play on the themes of loneliness and grief, while introducing a hint of magical realism and a distinctly Dickensian twist.
A sensitive and stirring collection, this book is not to be missed by lovers of short-fiction, particularly those who enjoy quiet, powerful characterization, as exhibited by authors such as Alice Munro, and Ann Tyler, and a thoughtful rousing look at the complexities of human emotion.
A great big thank you to the author and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.
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