Fifteen debut stories from a native Britisher and poetry critic.
Jackson demonstrates wit, compassion, imagination, and a heady interest in the writing process in tales often notable for their unlikely premises. Twin girls in “Darrell’s Garage” find themselves the objects of sexual attention from the man their mother uses to drive them home from school—but which will he touch, the twin who despises him or the one who trusts him? The title story comprises the reflections of an aging writer on her literary career and the odd politics attendant to a sad lifelong romance. Aged sisters try to reconcile sin and old age in “A Small Independence” by seeking out a priest’s permission to freeze themselves in a graveyard; and a young girl recalls cooking and gardening with a relative in “Grandmother’s Footsteps,” a tale leading sure-footedly toward “a moment [when], united against such blind misunderstanding, we were so close we could have touched souls.” “Imagining Friends” tells of a young girl’s imaginary little brother, who is so real that even those around her, including us, find themselves invested in his imaginary life—and eventual murder. Jackson’s tales sail along a current of plot and nostalgia, feeling pleasantly displaced in time—they could be the found stories of an author missing for the last 50 years. The plots are sometimes like fables or fairy tales, but in a way that argues for the validity of pieces told with clear message in mind. Yet even as the author celebrates the potential of storytelling, she is quick to criticize it, saying that “it is also the limitation of being mere audience. You may have empathy for me or compassion or disgust. But you cannot be me, be in my skin, feel as I feel.”
Forthright, honest, well crafted.