A varied set of tales from a skilled practitioner of the short form.

READ REVIEW

LOST GIRLS

SHORT STORIES

Morris plumbs the depths of fraught relationships in this debut short story collection.

Certain connections leave their marks, and in these 17 stories, the author explores the experiences of women who can’t completely sever old ties, whether they’re with lovers, crushes, friends, relatives, or even enemies. In “Inheritance,” a young woman works as a “sin-eater” following the death of the wealthy Mrs. Alma Cabot, ritualistically consuming a cake containing all the dead woman’s transgressions. She plans to use the money to escape her draining relationship with the Cabots, but her own family—who rely on her income to survive—will not let her go willingly. “Life After” follows Beth as she grieves her college-aged son following his death in a diving accident at a local quarry. The tragedy creates a distance between Beth and her husband, which she fills by pursuing a questionable new friendship with her son’s best friend, Ethan. In “Skipping Stones,” a bookish high school girl named Terri comes to the attention of two very different boys. Unnerved by her parents’ recent separation, she fumbles through a series of alarming events involving each of them. “Fear of Heights” tracks a school counselor named Allison Conti’s reaction to the death of her ex-husband, Tony. She and Lydia—whom Tony left Allison for—must drive to their old hometown to attend the funeral, sparking difficult memories.

Whether these stories’ characters are haunted by the disappearance of a neighbor girl or harassed by an employer at an apple orchard or confused by the mysterious death of a mother, they must all figure out ways to exist in a world that seems bent on taking things from them. “Some people are born to sin; others inherit it,” begins “Inheritance.” The question of when one becomes responsible for one’s own suffering recurs, and the answer isn’t so easy. Morris’ prose is full of vibrant detail, whether the tale is set decades in the past or in the present day: “I watched a father and son sit side by side on a bench, both staring at their phones. After a while, the son nudged the father, but he never looked at him. The father nudged the son back….They pushed at each other, not seeing the smile on the other’s face.” The author also excels at shorter stories; most collected here are fewer than 10 pages in length. Morris has an ability to wring a lot of emotion out of a few scant details, giving the feeling of a much longer work. Many share settings and characters, which contributes to a sense of interconnectivity and added meaning. There are a few tales that lead to predictable places—moments when the reader may wish that Morris had veered off the beaten path or committed more fully to the outcome she chooses—but overall, she demonstrates a shrewd understanding of what makes her characters tick. In the end, readers will leave the collection feeling as though they’ve lived pieces of several real lives.

A varied set of tales from a skilled practitioner of the short form.

Pub Date: June 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-952816-01-7

Page Count: 140

Publisher: TouchPoint Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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