Cornell instructor and poet Fulton offers a debut collection of linked stories of distinctive, resilient women.
In 1908, Mamie Flynn Garrahan is facing a difficult birth with nothing but an arsenic-eating sister-in-law, a charm from her mother and doctor-prescribed heroin to help her through it. Just when she’s about to give up and die, she pulls herself together and pushes out a baby girl. A farmwife, Mamie doesn’t take any nonsense, and her stolidly candid, perspicacious-yet-nonjudgmental voice is one of the great pleasures of this pleasing collection. Fulton offers a complete group portrait of the Garrahan women. As she follows this family through the 20th century, the author changes her tone and her narrative tactics to allow each character to emerge as her own fully realized self. “Queen Wintergreen” is the story of Mamie’s mother, contemplating widowhood, her place in her son’s crowded household and an unexpected marriage proposal. By telling Peg Flynn’s tale in the third person, Fulton is able to offer external observations, but she also allows Peg to retain some mystery. Other stories call for other accents. In “Dorothy Loves Maleman,” Fulton demonstrates that she is just as convincing giving voice to a schizophrenic as she is at creating prodigiously sane characters like Mamie. Different perspectives emerge as characters move through each others’ stories, and, while each entry works on its own, the readers’ experience of these women is enriched by viewing their lives together. Fulton has a poet’s economy of language and an ability to choose discerning details.
Emotionally satisfying and extremely well-crafted short fiction.