Welcome to the February edition of Short & Sweet, my feature dedicated to short fiction. This is the second month of a personal project to work my way through at least nine volumes of short stories residing on my nightstand. I’ve found the short stories to be perfect bedtime reading. Sometimes I can read a story in a single sitting, sometimes I need two bedtime reading sessions. And before I know it, I’ve made my way through an entire book! Now it’s become a habit.
Mrs Somebody Somebody reminded me how much I love connected stories. Set in Lowell, Massachusetts, the book begins with the arrival of unions in Lowell’s textile mills. Several years later, industry has died and the town’s demographics have changed dramatically. Characters wander through multiple stories. Children reappear as adults. A girl who featured prominently in one story is identified later only by the color of her shoes. But the reader knows who she is. These are gritty stories of life’s hardships: a man returns from the war and has trouble reconnecting with his wife. Over the course of three stories, a little boy grows into a troubled man. Immigrants struggle to make their way in American society. The first and last stories are both about Stella, a mill worker turned hairdresser. They wrap around the entire collection, providing a surprising but somehow fitting conclusion.
Mrs Somebody Somebody is an impressive debut effort. If you liked Olive Kitteridge, you’ll like this book (and if you haven’t read Olive yet, then read that one too!)
Next month I’ll be reading At the Owl Woman Saloon, a collection by Tess Gallagher. I ran out and bought this after it was featured in Belletrista. More in the next installment of Short & Sweet!