Russell Taylor’s (Will Dolores Come to Tea?, 2010, etc.) latest collection of short stories explores mourning, love, loss and the struggle for meaningful connection.
Prolific writer Russell Taylor provides a careful, articulate study of intimate, desolate and occasionally terrifying human experiences. “The Contract” retells, in prose, Pushkin’s classic Russian poem “Eugene Onegin” from the perspectives of Onegin’s spurned lover, Tatiana, and her eventual husband, Prince Nicolaevich. The central characters in “Les Amants,” “Charlotte” and “Belated” are widows anguished by grief and anxious to rekindle a human bond, with very different results. Depression and madness related to the struggle to comprehend existence feature vividly in “The Meaning,” “Supporting Roles” and “The Inquest,” among others, with outcomes similarly varied and often unexpected. The desire for connection is explored in “Carter,” in which a woman endeavors to bond with her autistic son. A glimmer of hope can be seen in “The Life She Chose,” in which a young woman suddenly finds herself with personal and financial freedom. Equally auspiciously, the married couple in “Passed Over in Silence” finds an extremely unconventional yet mutually rewarding solution to their sexless relationship. Nature is a powerful presence in many of the stories, which are often imbued with a sense of spirituality and healing. Themes are revisited, though in these elegiac stories, there’s no feeling of repetition. Many readers will be mesmerized by the haunting, poetic writing. However, some may find themselves dispirited due to the few respites from melancholy, or they may struggle with Russell Taylor’s inclusion of different languages, as in “Belated,” where significant passages are in French. However, careful readers will savor this exceptional collection of tales, and those who’ve never read Russell Taylor might next seek out the rest of her considerable body of work.
Pensive and luminous despite its dolor, a resonant collection that deftly contemplates the existential.