Her roles as daughter, sister, wife and mother coupled with her nursing career have provided Victoria with a plethora of experiences and observations around which to weave her stories. Beatrice Fed the Ducks is a poignant story of aging and memory failure, which is sure to pierce even the hardest heart. White Shoes and A Weather Eye bring memories of fellow nurses who influenced Victoria’s attitudes to work and life, while Code of Denial draws on her knowledge of drugs and their dangers.
The characters in Working Stiffs don’t openly embrace the company’s mean-spirited, oppressive, or murderous policies. They get talked or lulled into them. Out of exhaustion, fear, or basic survivalism, they accept their superiors’ language and logic—however it comes. In “Eyes to Wonder, Tongues to Praise,” the narrator, Baker, learns that he’s bound for a promotion but only because his buddy is getting canned. Baker has to keep it secret, and it eats him up. He’s riddled with anxiety, but he manages the discomfort and accepts his own complicity.
Baldwin combines a breezy, easy to read writing style with years of classroom experiences to produce a well written work filled with short to a little longer sketches that offer a peek into the life of teachers and parents. While not every offering is meant to be humorous, the ones that are do bring a smile to the lips and giggles during the read.
The cover illustration of Daniel Grotta’s Seven from Haven shows two appealing cats, one white, one black, posed with a tombstone. This picture captures the tone of Grotta’s seven short stories in this collection – gentle discomfiting tales of the unexplained, set in or near the Pennsylvania mountain village of Haven. The stories are intriguing, eerie and disturbing, and also have as themes big issues like civil rights, war, technology, and the bonds that link human beings.
The launch of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1941 was a break-through for women writers in that the editors published not only hardboiled and noir detective fiction, which was mostly written by men, but also domestic crime and suspense stories, at which women excelled. Weinman’s authors won “Edgar” nominations from the Mystery Writers of America, founded in 1945. Some of them wrote best-sellers, including novels that became motion pictures (such as Vera Caspary’s Laura). In Weinman’s view, these authors are no longer remembered, unlike some male writers like Dasheill Hammett and Ross Macdonald, because their domestic subject matter has not been taken seriously.
Because of her curation work for archaeology museums, many of her tales feature the study of archaeology although many tend to feature the tedious nature of cleaning artifacts rather than the careful study of a site.
Holmes likes to use language vividly and originally. Cars “crept to the curb on tire tiptoe”; a woman walks in a “toothache of time”. Holmes also uses patterns of imagery to convey her themes. In one of my favourite stories, “Nuts and Bolts”, a childfree couple choose not to spend a holiday with friends – the “same old bunch” with a third baby among them, but to stay in the city together.
There is an intense intimacy in Solding’s writing style. The words come as a confession: a kind of whispered tale that draws the reader in and invites collusion. The characters progress naturally through time, beginning with key moments of youth and awakening perception, and moving through coupling, and later parenthood.
Memory is critical in each of the stories, recycled into new experiences, and reworked into new memories, twisting, in and out of view, but never lost—nothing is ever lost. The setting brings history into the present day as modern characters uncover clues about the past that lead to self-awareness.
Loory often ends with an invisible higher power, who seems to approve the goings-on with laughter or, in the case of the balloon, “a faint, expected pop.” What’s eerie about a balloon breaking? Nothing, if you don’t think a child is attached to it as it rises above the Stories world.