The emotive stories in this anthology take readers to the streets of New York and San Francisco, to warm east coast beaches, rural Idaho, and Italy, from the early 1900s, through the 1970s, and into present day.
A sinister woman accustomed to getting everything she wants. A down-on-his luck cook who stumbles on goodness. A young mother who hides $10 she received from a stranger. The boy who collects secrets. A young woman stuck between youth and adulthood. Children who can’t understand why their mother disappears.
The distinct and varied characters in Distant Flickers stand at a juncture. The loss of a spouse, a parent, a child, oneself. Whether they arrived at this place through self-reflection, unexpected change, or new revelations—each one has a choice to make.
This is a fascinating collection of what I consider to all be five-star stories. They all involve loss, identity, or characters at a crossroads, but are delightfully varied in plot and location. For those of us who write or try to write, it’s a master class in storytelling from eight talented and accomplished authors. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites below, but they are all wonderful. At the end of each story in the book is a biography of the author and spotlights of their other written works.
In Norfolk, Virginia, 1975 by Elizabeth Gauffreau, BethAnn is coming to terms with being a young military wife, trying to scrape by with little pay and realizing things aren’t going the way she dreamed. It evoked a lot of feelings in me, as I was also a young military wife. It is a realization that actual love is different than dreams, that marriage can be tough, and that “happily ever after” in a marriage includes hard times and many shades of gray. It is a moving story that depicts a young girl who is faced with the reality of her choices. I am already a fan of Elizabeth Gauffreau, and I highly recommend her book Telling Sonny, set mostly during a Vaudeville tour in the 1920s.
The Coveting by Carol LaHines blew me away. It is about a woman who takes what she wants, no matter the cost. Despite the fact that it has an unlikable main character, I found this story riveting. This woman knew exactly who she was, and the loss incurred was always the loss of others. It evoked powerful emotion in me, and although it wasn’t always good emotion, the feelings I came away with were very strong. It was the standout story for me in an amazing collection. This and LaHines’ other story in this collection, “Two Boys,” are the first works of hers that I’ve read, but I will definitely seek out her other work.
Idaho Dreams by Joyce Yarrow is a fascinating tale of a woman who begins to realize that the life she is living is quickly turning into something else, something she is not sure she wants. Then she learns that her husband, who has been unexpectedly changing before her eyes, has been keeping a major secret. It is a fascinating tale of preppers in Idaho, but it becomes so much more. In the end, she has to try and separate fact from fiction and make a choice. What would we choose?
A Spoonful of Soup by Rita Baker is such a heartfelt and compelling story. It is about the life of a homeless man and a reminder that anyone can fall into bad circumstances or make mistakes. It is a reminder that the person you pass on the street has had a life full of rich and varied experiences, no matter where they may be now. It is a call to say we all matter, whether we’re sitting in a warm house or panhandling on the street. It is a call to make a choice. Do we ignore this man or invite him in and get to know him? I absolutely loved it, and it warmed my heart more than a cup of soup on a cold day.
Every work in this ten-story collection is expertly written and will stir up emotions and sometimes nostalgia in the reader. I highly recommend everyone read these stories, get to know the authors in their accompanying bios, and check out their other work. It was a rewarding experience for me.
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by Carol LaHines
She wanted always what was not hers. When she was eight years old, she pushed her sister down the stairwell and took her doll—the image of a tortured saint, with a sack for a body and a face carved from a gourd—for her own, claiming divine right. Maria Grazia recovered but was forever feeble, contenting herself with the tiny Magi, the tiny Jesus and donkeys in the crèche, hoping they were too small to arouse her sister’s sense of liturgical drama.
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