Everything My Mother Taught Me 3/5
Dang it Alice Hoffman, misadventures at lighthouses are my catnip! Lighthouse Keeper was my dream job when I was younger- big thanks to Ahab’s Wife- it’s a lonesome and perilous career but also pretty cool!
I was a huge Hoffman fan in high school, but I drifted away over the last 15 years or so. I dipped back into the Hoffman pool last year with a reread of Practical Magic (it holds up!) before a new-read of The Rules of Magic (ugh. big reminders of why I stopped reading Hoffman). I was hesitant to try this story, but my hesitance was in vain as I was hooked right away. Short stories work so well for Hoffman- no room for the bloat that has plagued the last few books of hers that I have read! A girl and her widowed mother find their fortunes upended as they are tasked with being “housekeepers” for several families living and working at a lighthouse. The mother is cruel, the girl is clever, and life on the island ebbs and flows with their tempestuous relationship as well as the tides.
Can You Feel This 4/5
I am not a parent. I do not intend to be a parent. This story is (which is brilliant, by the way) lays out all of the fear and anxiety- mostly around childbirth, but around many other aspects as well, in ways that I cannot. This short-but-mighty little story follows a woman on the cusp of giving birth, who has been warned in advance of possible complications. Things look so bleak that she is too scared to choose a name for the baby. She is also terrified of her own past; her mentally ill mother haunts her waking moments, and when her careful plans start to crumble she finds herself following a dangerous path once walked by her mother. The woman has her partner by her side, but even together she is isolated in her own body and in her own mind. The buzz of people around them is a drone that blocks out most attempts at help; even while surrounded by medical professionals she is still grasping for answers.
The Lion’s Den 4/5
There is so much history packed into this tiny tale of family drama! I was reading this while waiting for my optometrist, and when she arrived I wanted to tell her to come back in a minute, as I only had three pages left! Sometimes the things that I use to pass the time end up taking too much of my time, haha. A man has come home to live with his parents. His life has not gone according to plan, and he compares himself with the lives of other men (boys at the time) who went to his run-down-suburbs-of-DC-Catholic school.
If you want your children to believe they can change the fallen world, send them to a Quaker school. If you want to change your children to survive the world as it is, Catholicism has you covered.
His father is dying, and while he’d like to believe that he’s come back home to care for his parents, he’s come back home because he did not make his way in the world the way that he had planned to do. His father is a famous/notorious/hero/traitor of the political variety (stories change with the seasons), and the man has been struggling for years to get his father to tell his story. Now, on his death bed, will he tell the truth? Will that truth bring closure to him or to his dying father?
Zenith Man 3/5
A man calls 911 to report that his wife is dead. The man has lived in this Pennsylvania coal town for years, and he keeps to himself. He keeps so far to himself that no one in town even knew that he was married! Things, quite understandably, get fairly out of hand. This strange loner and his deceased wife now depend on a young public defender who is not ready to be depended on. Our loner, the titular Zenith man, does not want to depend on his defendant- or anyone for that matter. I would love to see this piece flushed out into a full novel, then given the HBO miniseries treatment. There is a good deal to dig out from this story! I do NOT recommend the audio; the narrator, David Colacci, was terribly detached and monotonous. I felt like I was being read to by speech-to-text software. He seemed remarkably bored!
The Weddings 3/5
Jack and Caleb, like many of their friends, have been together for years. Marriage has never been an option, but as marriage becomes legal across the US, their friends start tying the knot. Both men are apprehensive; they love each other, but do they love marriage? Their relationship is colored by two weddings that they attend together: one wedding is what could be their future, and the other wedding is a nightmare vision of what could be their past. Jack has an old friend who reappears every few years with big news, and this time the news is a wedding. They have been out of touch for quite some time, and the invitation is a surprise on several levels. Jack, who is Korean American, has struggled his entire life with identity, tokenism, and tradition. Jack’s fair-weather friend has often been a catalyst around these struggles, and the reasons behind these charged situations slip slowly through the story like secrets from the drunken wedding guests within. Jack and Caleb are lovely; I enjoyed being their plus-plus-one throughout their wedding adventures.
All together, we’ve got a 3.4 average rounded up to four! The subject matter didn’t always grab me, but all pieces were well thought out and carefully written. The looming theme of connection-no-matter-what held this collection in a more cohesive grip than some of the other Amazon Originals; this may be a high-note to go out on…but I’ll always need something quick to read while waiting in line!