Irene’s collection offers a look at love not just in an ethereal sense, but in how individuals perceive it and how they act when they are in love—or something close to it.
Romance tales have probably existed since even before words, as there were likely amorous stories etched onto the walls of Paleolithic caves. Irene presents not just one new love story, but many in her short-story collection. And while not all the stories successfully tug at the heartstrings, each has a point of view and will evoke an emotional response in open-minded readers. The strongest of the stories is the last of the bunch, “Solomon Grundy.” Irene opens with the grim, abrupt nursery rhyme about a mundane life and expands upon it to follow an old man in his last week on Earth. Over the course of the short tale, the man reflects on his past with his love, Rose, and the author concludes the story on a heartening yet bittersweet note. Others of her romantic fables are less convincing, though Irene tries with each to make a unique point about the varying facets of love. She provides readers with a peek at not-quite love that is destined never to bloom; reflections on the follies of young love and clear-eyed conclusions that come with age; tenderness that turns to love; and lost loves that never return. What is particularly noteworthy about these stories is that the author rarely falls into the trap of being overly flowery. Instead, the slim collection strikes the right chord by offering a view of romance that is achievable rather than an impossible dream.
While these stories may not compete with Shakespeare’s sonnets, readers whose hearts aren’t made of stone will likely be moved by Irene’s thoughtful explorations.