Anne Leigh Parrish's fourth novel, Maggie's Ruse, will be published in October 2019 by Unsolicited Press. She is the author of six previously published books of fiction: The Amendment, a novel, (Unsolicited Press, 2018); Women Within, a novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017); By The Wayside, stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017); What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); and All The The Roads That Lead From Home (Press 53, 2011). She is the author of more than fifty published short stories, fifteen published poem, and numerous essays on the art and craft of writing. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website at www.anneleighparrish.com
“In a world full of glittering descriptions and minimal consequences, a pair of twins engagingly explore questions involving love, career, and family. - Maggie's Ruse, a novel (Unsolicited Press, 2018).”
– Kirkus Reviews
A woman in her 30s strives to overcome doubts regarding her romance with a bartender in this novel.
Angie Dugan has no fond memories of her past relationships. The 34-year-old social worker at Lindell Retirement Home in Dunston, New York, has been seeing bartender Matt for well over a month. She fears she’ll do something to drive him away. Years ago, her mom, Lavinia, walked out on her family: She was fed up with her husband Potter’s alcoholism. Though Lavinia soon returned for her five children, Angie continues to have abandonment issues. She consequently keeps people at arm’s length and has difficulty trusting Matt. He certainly doesn’t make it easy; he’s good friends with Sharon, a server at The Watering Hole, where he works. Evidently, Matt and Sharon had a relationship, but is it over, as he claims? Making matters worse is Potter, whose recent problems with his wife, Mary Beth, seem to have driven the recovering alcoholic to drink excessively. As Angie counsels her beloved but troubled father, she tries pushing out negative thoughts concerning Matt in case what the two have is indeed love. Parrish fills her story with indelible characters, most notably the Dugans, who have appeared in her earlier novels. Family propels the narrative, from Angie’s siblings to Matt’s addict sister, Jen, and even a few Lindell residents. The tale delivers a realistic depiction of loving relationships and, as such, is often gloomy. Angie, for example, unquestionably loves her family, undeterred by her sister Marta’s apparent indifference or Potter’s stumbles. At the same time, her burgeoning romance with Matt is thoroughly engaging. Since readers have the same information as Angie, they may likewise wonder about Matt’s intermittently suspicious behavior. The author’s crisp prose keenly details Angie’s predicament, as when she chastises herself for a “nasty sardonic voice” that has become her “default setting.”
An outstanding, unsentimental portrait of family, love, and unavoidable hardships.
Pub Date: March 16, 2021
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Unsolicited Press
Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020
Characters in this collection of short stories and a novella seek to validate their lives while ensnared in unhappy or fractured relationships.
In the story “He Said, She Said,” a woman has to sell her bookstore when her novelist husband’s debut isn’t selling well. After his later books garner attention and the couple are financially secure, she returns to writing poetry, an activity she enjoyed before they married. He, meanwhile, revels in multiple extramarital affairs. The predominantly female characters in Parrish’s tales struggle to define themselves. Adultery is a recurring theme, as in “The First Time.” In this case, a married woman is sleeping with a married man. Sadly, the title isn’t referencing the initial intimacy but, rather, a much worse transgression the woman suffers. There are additional hurdles that various players must face. Marjorie in “The Shed,” for example, wonders about her retired husband, Ed, who spruces up the shed and then spends most of his time there. Does he think his wife has grown weary of him, or does he feel that way about her? The collection’s final and best offering is the novella Mavis Muldoon. The eponymous character is an 80-year-old woman lounging in a lawn chair in a convenience store parking lot. She reflects on a full life, which includes losing both her husband and her only child. But her warmheartedness is infectious, as she gives a homeless man money for food, cares for his pet ferret, and lends a troubled teen girl her ear.
Many of the tales here are filled with misery and melancholy. A woman is considered a “freak” for much of her life simply due to her above-average height (“Here’s Why”) while Sally of “A Wild Feeling,” who craves affection, desperately tells her boyfriend’s other lover: “Give him back.” The book delivers a series of joyless marriages and relationships along with people who are discontent with careers or retirement. Even the dreamers who pursue their love of such arts as painting and photography may achieve success but don’t necessarily find bliss. There are nevertheless glimmers of hope. In “People Like Them,” Raoul has a job that involves checking residents’ homes while they’re away. This gives him and his girlfriend, Sally, the opportunity to stay, at least for a time, in an expensive home, though they may ultimately appreciate what they already have. Likewise, Mavis’ general buoyancy outshines the past tragedies she’s endured as well as her surviving family members—her granddaughter, Isabelle, and her husband, Brian—who seemingly view her as a burden. Parrish’s concise writing gives her already blunt language an even meaner punch: “Frank’s death had been sudden, which though merciful for him, was cruel for her. She’d had no time to prepare herself….He went to the store, stood in line, and dropped dead.” Readers will find some harsh, emotionally draining stories here. But these tales are also wonderfully worthwhile courtesy of an indelible voice that leaves a lasting impact.
Relentlessly despondent, refreshing, and unforgettable tales from a skillful author.
Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020
Page count: 162pp
Publisher: Unsolicited Press
Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020
Tumultuous, artistic twins struggle with their sameness and their differences in Parrish’s (The Amendment, 2018, etc.) novel.
Maggie and Marta Dugan are identical twin sisters—picture-perfect copies of millennial privilege. They’re financially well-supported as they pursue creative endeavors in New York City, Maggie as a visual artist and Marta as an actress. But neither has experienced the success they’d hoped for at the age of 27. Both operate on impulse, which results in choppy journeys toward self-understanding. Maggie, for instance, knows that Marta has an ongoing professional and personal connection to Josh—but she still allows him to think that she’s Marta until they kiss deeply and passionately. Josh, no stranger to privilege himself, is an aspiring playwright who becomes fascinated by both women, but he pursues only one of them romantically, which leads to conflict. As Maggie and Marta’s relationship has its up and downs, they also interact with their sister Angie, who has a practical job as a social worker and receives no support from their parents. Throughout, Parrish offers dreamy descriptions of the women’s luxurious lifestyles, and much of the book’s humor comes from the straightforward way that Parrish describes the characters’ rather mystifying and capricious behavior. They move out of the city on a whim, take jobs and leave them at the drop of a hat, and treat dates horribly. Through it all, the author shows how the sisters deal with a tense question: When there’s someone in the world who looks just like you, what does that do to your sense of identity? Is that person's sense of self inextricably tied up with your own? Unexpected developments, such as Maggie’s closeness with Leah, a rival artist, often shine, despite their far-fetched nature.
In a world full of glittering descriptions and minimal consequences, a pair of twins engagingly explore questions involving love, career, and family.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Unsolicited Press
Review Posted Online: May 23, 2019
In this novel about an emotionally stunted widow, Parrish (Women Within, 2017, etc.) offers a quiet, fractured study of mourning.
When Lavinia Starkhurst hears that her wealthy husband, Chip, has died in a freak accident, she initially thinks it’s a joke: “I’m just standing here waiting for the punch line,” she tells her husband’s best friend, the bearer of bad news. It’s a fitting start to this inscrutable novel, which examines the emotional confusion of losing a loved one. Lavinia, in denial about her grief, becomes prone to tears, off-putting jokes, and having one drink too many on an empty stomach. Parrish is an exacting writer who drops keen observations (“She felt haunted, not by Chip's ghost, but by her own cruelty”) that make Lavinia’s sudden bouts of weeping especially startling. Chip was Lavinia’s second husband, and his death leaves her struggling with feelings for her alcoholic ex, Potter. On a whim, she decides to take a cross-country trip from her home in upstate New York to California, much to the concern of her friends and family. Parrish writes about roadside motels and dime-a-dozen diners with a warmth that contrasts sharply with Lavinia’s sterile home life. Readers will almost feel the wind in the protagonist’s hair as she sets off for adventure. On the road, she meets a somewhat expected array of characters down on their luck, and she’s quick to come to their monetary aid. The most effective moments come when she’s vulnerable with strangers, as when she spends time in Montana reconnecting with Potter’s sister, Patty. At one point, Lavinia endures a last-minute invitation to a funeral, where she’s confused for someone else, revealing just how precarious her identity is. Lavinia’s trip is marked by impulsive decisions and dropped plotlines, making the whole affair feel like a woozy fever dream. However, readers are rewarded with further study of Lavinia and her past lives, drawing the emotionally distant widow into sharper focus.
A meandering tale made enjoyable by the author’s rich renderings of characters and their quirks.
Pub Date: June 26, 2018
Page count: 370pp
Publisher: Unsolicited Press
Review Posted Online: April 27, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018
Three women of different generations and backgrounds meet at a retirement home in award-winning author Parrish’s latest novel (By the Wayside, 2017, etc.).
Ninety-two-year-old Constance Maynard, a resident of the Lindell Retirement Home, is a former professor and early feminist who now finds herself diminished by old age and by her difficult relationship with the woman she raised as a daughter. Eunice, a small, wiry woman in her 50s, has worked at Lindell since she was a young woman, after she lost her inheritance on a fake real estate deal for the home’s site. Her unhappy, alcoholic parents did not model a good relationship for her, and consequently, she wasted years and money on men who cruelly used her. Sam, a good-hearted, caring woman in her 20s, sees herself as large and ungainly. Reared by cold maternal grandparents and a single mom who claimed to be the victim of a rape, she now finds solace in reading poetry. Ultimately, each woman finds some degree of peace in the present, although readers may find the outcome of elderly Constance’s story to be predictable. In three sections told from each woman’s point of view, readers learn about each of their lives and how they view one another, which adds depth to their individual stories. Although the book is billed as a feminist novel with “themes of reproductive rights,” these themes aren’t well-developed beyond their direct relevance to the plot; for example, Sam’s birth resulted from a teenage pregnancy, and the woman Constance brought up as her daughter was actually her half sister by a mentally unstable mother. That said, the book does effectively address themes of social and educational inequality, particularly when comparing the life of Constance, a history professor with a doctorate from Brown University, with those of uneducated Eunice and Sam.
An enjoyable, thought-provoking story but one that doesn’t fully explore its themes.
Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Review Posted Online: July 5, 2017
Parrish weaves linked, darkly humorous tales of aging, death, love and alcoholism using the gothic tropes of Southern literary fiction.
In the story “And To the Ones Left Behind,” a woman named Patty sets out on a mission to win her brother’s wife back for him. Patty believes she can find and deliver Lavinia by giving her a newfound sense of gratitude for the relationship. This misconception proves comical, however, as Patty faces her own vulnerabilities; she thought she knew her brother inside and out, but once she sees her brother’s shambling house and excessive drinking habits, she quickly realizes that Lavinia may have been right to leave. However, at the story’s heart, Patty recognizes the bond of siblinghood that overlooks such flaws in favor of the good. Other stories in the collection similarly offer glimpses of desolation, only to point out the light in the darkness. As Parrish cleverly links her stories, creating a rich world of haphazard relationships and beautiful messes, characters appear as heroes in some tales and struggle in others. Some stories feel more like portraits than plots, as she paints scenes and develops characters’ desires through summary and brush stroke rather than through actions or events, while bringing a sense of light to the ending of each story. However, the collection often relies on summary to cover too much ground; at times, readers may hunger for more intense moments of dialogue or close-up examinations of images and experiences. That said, this collection will speak to readers who are interested in its butterfly effect of family bonds and interactions.
A successful collage of linked stories set in a rich, dysfunctional world.
Pub Date: June 3, 2013
Page count: 202pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Review Posted Online: May 25, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013
WOMEN WITHIN: Best Book Awards, 2017
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