An impressive array of short stories from prolific novelist and playwright Arden (The Walk to the Paradise Garden, 2011).
Within these 11 well-written, pleasing tales of varying lengths and moods, Arden conjures a kaleidoscopic array of emotions, characters, and predicaments, with humanity as a common thread. Though the circumstances presented can be found in everyday lives and commonplace relationships, Arden still manages to bring each story to life with creative vibrancy and colorful prose. The slyly effective opening story, “Coming of Age,” features a worrisome London-based husband and wife traversing tricky terrain while on a ranchland vacation in Mexico. Cruel high school students and lifelong movie buffs also figure into other slick entries about life’s twists and turns. Arden’s skills are even more on display in the shorter stories, which feature a potent economy of words, as in the six-page story “Come Live with Me and Be My Love,” in which a lovely woman and her timid, doting co-worker/roommate with a “face like a first draft” fall in and out of love (and back again) after a calamitous relationship misstep. Also splendidly rendered is a story of an unrequited affair that plays out in a series of volleying voice mails escalating in urgency between an obsessive, embittered woman and a disinterested man in “A Feminine Ending.” From the towel-stealing, cross-country traveling newlyweds in “Craters of the Moon Motel” to the hoarder mentality of the aging father in “The Book Collector,” Arden stunningly chronicles average lives in varying states of flux. The futuristic titular tale brims with introspection and hindsight as two outsiders ruminate over the demise of planet Earth through the historic recordings of an incurable psychopath frozen for posterity. The collection curiously ends with melancholy tones as the wise, elderly man and Great Depression survivor in “Make My Bed and Light the Light” turns 90.
Savory, memorable morsels of brilliance from a clever wordsmith and a considerable talent to watch.