Sherlock’s debut short story collection examines characters who push forward, no matter how strongly memory holds them back.
In these tales, a man suffering from a brain trauma distances himself from his sister and navigates his isolation in a world that seems to have left him behind; a retiree turns to sculpture for self-expression, much to the chagrin of his housing community and at the expense of a friendship; and a middle-aged man accompanies his parents on a cruise, trying to cut the cord, with the probable breakup of his marriage hovering in the background. Many of these tales refreshingly put middle-aged characters front and center, whether it’s an heiress conned by her Irish cousin, or a wife discovering that her husband has a second family and that her own life is a sham. There are nods to other works of literature in each of these stories, including a Mark Twain enthusiast, a Harriet Beecher Stowe tour, along with burgeoning authors, English professors, and Shakespearean quotes. These touches could have seemed too self-aware, but instead they’re kind reminders that literature shows us how to live. Profound wisdom bookends these stories, although some are dragged down by too many needless details and back story that take away from the depth of emotion. One of Sherlock’s strengths, however, is believable, rich dialogue. This is an author who knows her characters well, whether they’re minor or major, and who has shaped their individual voices. Nowhere is this command of character more pronounced than in the title story, which may also be the one with the most depth. It explores a relationship between a mother and her daughter who has Alzheimer’s—a role reversal that’s beautiful and saddening. Their mental estrangement between is only reconciled with music, even if those moments of calm are fleeting.
An often beautiful and insightful set of stories about people both lonely and in love.