In but a few words, some writers can create whole stories, rich characters, and stir emotion in their readers. Sue Midalia is one of them.
This, however, is the problem that I have with short stories. You see, when I read I like to snuggle down in bed or curl up on a chair, and settle in and let the author work their magic. I allow myself to be drawn in, right in, to the story. I care about the characters, love them even, and I worry for what will happen to them. And just as I’m swept away and ready to keep reading on and on, I turn the page … and that’s it. The End.
What? I’m left thinking. Is that it? How dare you end now? You’ve just sucked me in, promised me so much, then ended our relationship. What’s more, you’ve even moved on. On to the next story. AND ON THE VERY NEXT PAGE. Well, I’m simply not ready to move on. Not yet. BECAUSE I’M STILL LIVING IN THE LAST STORY.
This is what each story in this collection did to me. The characters are so well-drawn, so realistic and believable, that I was sucked right in, every single time. AND I WANTED MORE.
In ‘The boy with no ears’, I was with Amy watching on as her young neighbour was abused. In the title story, ‘An unknown sky’, I was there with the mother as she waved off her son at the airport, and I was there when she returned home to his empty room. That one, for me, was particularly cruel, as I soon will be that mother when I wave goodbye to my own daughter in a few months. Then there was Jim in ‘Crows’, who broke my heart by craving to lie with the woman he’d always loved. And Karen in ‘Backward facing curls’ who can’t settle down, while Jill, her childhood friend, can only watch on. How I enjoyed Matilda, the free-spirited backpacker in ‘The study of falling cats’, who isn’t as silly or as carefree as she appears. Then I felt for Toby in ‘Compensation’, who sits by his twin sister’s hospital bed, heavy with guilt. And elderly Grace in ‘The perfect stranger’, missing her dead son, and the young man she befriends, who is yearning for the love of his parents.
So, now do you understand why I don’t read many short story collections? I can’t cope with the emotional trauma of being taken into these characters’ lives, strung along for a SHORT while, then dumped. Repeatedly. Once per book is enough, thank you.
So, to all you short story tellers out there who make me want to spend quantity time with your characters, please give me more than a few minutes. Hours at least; days or weeks even better. Bear fraught readers like me in mind, and turn your story into a novel!
I write this tongue-in-cheek, but, Sue, if you are considering expanding one of these stories into a novel, or even a novella, please, by all means, go ahead — you’ll have a reader here.
‘What can I do for you?’ This story grabbed my heart and squeezed it, even before the twist at the end. It was one of the stories that I didn’t want to leave …
Elizabeth in ‘What can I do for you?’. She’s had so much grief, which she just quietly accepts.
‘How on a cold winter night she twined her feet through his, and silently cried when he turned his back.’
I always find this the hardest to pin down, and there’s many that I could have chosen, but I’ve picked this one from ‘A World of Sighs’. I melted when I read it, and it brought to mind the sound of Jacqueline du Pré playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto:
‘My mum teaches music, mostly cello, and she plays like she has bruises inside her.’
This is my sixth review for the AWW Women Writers’ Challenge, so I’ve completed the task! I’ve had such fun reading the books and writing the reviews, and I have so many more that I want to read, that I’m going to continue anyway!
I’m currently reading a memoir called ‘Golden Haze’ by Jade Lewis. Jade founded the charity ‘Jade Lewis & Friends’, which runs drug prevention programmes and programmes for women in prison. Her story is a good one. Stay tuned …