These eight stories are about damaged people, people who have been scarred by something or someone in their lives, people who have been tarnished by disease, abuse, family strive, and other maladies. Yet each story is a tale of resilience, a tale of someone or several someones who know how to deal with what life throws at them, pick through it to find the beautiful pieces within, and carry on.
I really enjoyed reading this book of short stories, so much so that I think I’ll read them again soon. I could have gobbled this one up in an afternoon, but with short stories I like to draw them out over a couple of days, so that’s how I went about reading this book.
It is always difficult for me to review short fiction because each story can be so different, how do you review the book as a whole? So I figured in this case I’d tell you about two of my favorite stories of the bunch, and why I enjoyed them so much. The first is “The Pond”, a story about a twenty-four-year-old mentally retarded woman named Martha who finds herself pregnant with her first child. The story is told from the point of view of Martha’s parents, Julia and Burton, who resign themselves to the fact that they will be raising Martha’s child and aren’t exactly looking forward to the next twenty or so years of being parents all over again. The story spoke to me so much, I think, because of the resiliency of Martha, and of her determination to be a mother even though she couldn’t quite grasp the concept of what that would entail. The story ends with Martha’s son, Gary, as an eight-year-old boy, and Burton is watching the two of them together, and he comes to the sudden understanding that Martha truly IS a mother to Gary, however capable she is of doing that job – to Gary, she is the only mother he will ever know, and he loves her with his whole heart. That scene brought a tear to my eye, it was so hopeful, so full of human emotion, so full of love.
The other story that really spoke to me is “Three Girls” a story about three sisters, Connie, Jean, and Paula, who pretty much have to take care of each other due to the fact that their parents are less than perfect, sort of absorbed in their own worlds, and possibly alcoholics. The relationships between the three of them reminded me a bit of my own with my siblings when we were younger. I am the oldest of four, and although my parents did the best they could, four kids is just hard (especially with the fact that we treaded precariously on the poverty line for most of my childhood). And so often I found myself taking care of the two littlest ones, or I would find my brother (only two years younger) defending me on the playground when someone was picking on me (I was a nerd, and he was “cool”). I know the feeling of being surrounded by siblings, and having a love/hate relationship with that fact. So, although this story wasn’t the most hopeful, it did have a personal connection for me and I really loved that.
Alone With You is a fantastically written collection of short fiction that took me by surprise a bit. It always manages to shock me when an author of short fiction can manage to make a twenty-page story so real, can manage to draw complex characters in such a short time, can even make me cry about characters I’ve only known for twenty pages. This is a collection not to be missed.