I am a huge fan of short stories, and try and have a collection on the go within my reading routine at all times. They’re great for fitting in reading while waiting in lines, between meetings, or before bed! I think they are also a fantastic medium for authors to convey powerful messages within the space of a few pages, and when they were well done they can often carry more weight than a novel on the same topic. I have read a few recently that have particularly stood out to me and that I wanted to share with you all.
Pulse Points by Jennifer Down
This collection by Australian author, Jennifer Down, recently won the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. The collection is dark, hard-hitting, and does not shy away from the difficult topics in life. The stories range in length and capture snippets within the everyday lives of a number of people, set across Australia, Japan, America and France. They quite literally touch on the pulse points of life and cover themes including love, bereavement, suicide, terminal illness, student/teacher affairs, and rape. The stories are at their most powerful when they are brief and touch on some of the darker themes, the emotion that Down can draw the reader to feel within a mere few pages is incredibly impressive.
Standouts from the collection for me included Coarsegold, Dogs, Pulse Points and Aokigahara.
The New Order by Karen E. Bender
This collection is extremely timely and topical (it is published on the day of the midterm elections here in the US!), and examines American culture over the last two years. I started reading this collection up on the day of the Pittsburgh shooting, and the first story in the collection, Where to Hide in a Synagogue, could not have been a more apt reminder or an indication of just how relevant this collection of stories was! The stories were realistic, transported you to a range of points of view, and covered topics including school shootings, terrorism, politics, sexual harassment, and living in fear. It was a difficult collection to read in the sense that the content was extremely moving and confronting, but an important series of stories that I hope many people pick up.
Standouts from the collection for me were The Good Mothers in the Parking Lot, Mrs America, and Where to Hide in a Synagogue. Thanks to Counterpoint Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Fireflies of Autumn by Moreno Giovannoni
This collection is technically a novel told through a series of chronological short stories, and a truly unique piece of writing. I wanted to mention it here as the stories themselves are wonderful explorations of the migrant experience, specifically Italian migrants in the USA and Australia.
I understand that they are loosely based on true stories of residents living in San Ginese, a Tuscan village, and they are utterly enchanting. There is a whimsy to their telling, though they touch on the hardships of village life, including farming and war-time life. The characters Giovannoni brings to life include the young, the elderly, the newlyweds, the farmers – the depth of experiences he captures in this collection allow a really engaging exploration of the migrant experience particularly. The narrative itself woven through the collection also speaks to the importance of stories within our cultural and personal identities, and it is one of the most engaging collections on a migrant experience that I have read yet. It was also shortlisted for the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction (which is how I came to find out about it!).