MAPLE & LEAD by Aaron  Parrett


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A collection of 11 previously published short stories, many of which portray failing relationships. 

Parrett (Montana Americana Music, 2016, etc.) opens with the masterful, deeply affecting “Side of the Road,” in which an unnamed narrator recounts his troubling interactions with his abusive, alcoholic father. The latter eventually finds work removing detritus from the roadways of Montana. An early scene involves a dead moose and demonstrates Parrett’s skill with sensory detail: “The blood was frosting over on the highway when we got there, but it was still sticky enough to coat my boots like paint. I left red prints, one foot in front of the other, on top of the white shoulder stripe as the two of them gutted the carcass.” Purposeful ambiguity is another evocative feature of Parrett’s style; for example, the aforementioned narrator reveals that he was 19 when he last saw his parents but not why he never saw them again. Consequently, later goodbyes are heart-wrenching in their simplicity, and what the narrator does with an object that his father gives him effectively brings the story full circle. By contrast, the title character in “Evelyn’s Footprints” has a childhood full of wonder and discovery, anchored by a tender rapport with her widowed father, although the tale’s ending is similarly ambiguous. Other standouts include the raw “The Stars Threw Down Their Spears,” in which a woman blames her boyfriend for her dog’s gruesome death, and the contemplative “Thirteen Things I Have Sold on EBay,” which neatly captures the pathos of an ended marriage. As an added bonus, debut illustrator Roby offers images of wood engravings that visually support each story. If there’s a drawback to this collection, it’s that a few entries don’t pack enough of a punch. For instance, “Sicilian Defense” uses chess as a metaphor for power relations between partners Nathan and Jared, but the bellicose, territorial language used to describe a sex act seems forced, and a final utterance of “Checkmate” is predictable and unnecessary.

Well-crafted works of fiction full of arresting images, insightful descriptions, and emotional resonance.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9976006-3-6
Page count: 150pp
Publisher: Territorial Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2019


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