I’ve probably said before somewhere that I find short story and flash fiction collections a difficult reading proposition, the exceptions being, as I am finding more and more, when the collection has a strong linking theme or overarching narrative. Recently two of these have come my way. And the colours match! What better reason to put them together!?
Even though I had heard several extracts from Diane Simmons Finding a Way and both enjoyed and admired them, I was still hesitant to make a start on this book. Flash fiction is an intense affair at the best of times and the prospect of a whole collection about grief did feel daunting We have all taken journeys of this kind and although we go back there from time to time, we might not want to follow in another’s footsteps. So having intended only to ‘dip in’ I was surprised to find I read it from start to finish in the space of a few days and found it rewarding as well as profoundly moving..
In this collection four characters are given a voice – mother father brother and husband of the girl who died. While empathising most with the mother’s situation (so many casual cruelties inflicted by both well-meaning and thoughtless friends) I found the teenage brother’s story particularly touching in the rawness of its anguish and his inability to process what had happened.
Eventually of course there is laughter as well as anger and sorrow, because that’s what happens and Diane Simmons tells it how it is. Most of all, the multiple viewpoints help avoid any sense of untrammelled emotion and build up a picture not just of fractured lives but of the girl who connected them. The story as a whole is harrowing but the end result is a triumph for the power of storytelling in this most concise of genres. For me Finding a Way succeeds in celebrating a life as well as a reflecting on its loss.
You can buy Finding A Way from Ad Hoc Fiction or on Kindle from Amazon UK
Treading the Uneven Road was offered to me for review and immediately caught my eye. As with many Irish short stories there is an underlying sadness, often as a result of exile, voluntary or enforced, and a sense of the impossibility of escaping ones roots. I particularly enjoyed The Sacred Heart – the story of two brothers, one of whom reappears in the final story White Trout. In fact several characters appear more than once so that although every story is separate there is a cohesion to the collection. You can read my Goodreads review here.
This book comes out in March and I’m glad to say L. M. Brown (Lorna) is going to be my guest here to talk about it very shortly.