Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: All the Roads That Lead From Home by Anne Leigh Parrish

All the Roads That Lead from Home by Anne Leigh Parrish
Published by: Press 53
Published on: August 18, 2011
Page Count: 170
Genre: Short stories
My reading format: Paperback mailed to me by author
Available formats: Paperback, Kindle e-book editions

My Review:

Most of the time I steer clear of short stories. I usually don't feel like I get to know the characters as well as I'd like to and as well as I do when I read a novel. I like that a novel can tell a story over days or decades, or anything in between. It can contain a lot of characters because given a long enough story, I can keep all of them straight. A couple years ago I won New Stories from the South 2010 from a Facebook contest by Algonquin Books and I started to be a believer in short stories. Of course, these were the best of the best from 2010 (and they produce a new set of them each year), but it made me want to give short stories more of a chance.

Luckily, Anne Leigh Parrish's All the Roads That Lead from Home, is a short story collection that is also well worth the read. The 11 stories explore similar themes through the actions and inner conflicts of a host of unforgettable characters. Only a few of these stories left me feeling positive or at least hopeful at the end. However, at the end of each of the stories that left me feeling sad or empty, this feeling was overshadowed by Parrish's beautiful and honest writing style (and besides, not every story has to have a happy ending).

The characters are memorable. There's Darlene in "Loss of Balance" who wants to take care of her father better than her stepsister can. There's Angie in "For the Taking" who struggles both in her relationship with her significant other and with pushing a piano down the sidewalk on her block. There's Pinny in "Pinny and the Fat Girl" who "didn't mind her mother being gone, because her mother was often harsh and critical...and could really sink a cold finger into Pinny's heart" (p. 62), and doesn't mind doing all the housework in her mother's absence.

The men, though they may not be as resourceful or kind as their female counterparts, are equally memorable. Vic and Lander in "Snow Angels" could come to blows at any moment over a possible inheritance. Clifford Benderhoff in "The Comforts of Home" might be an unlikely match for his neighbor Eldeen. There's the man who escaped from Clearview Nursing Home to the Dugans' house in "Our Love Could Light the World" who might rather stay where he ends up.  

Many of the stories are tied together with similar themes: vulnerable women in love with emotionally unattached men unable to meet the needs of those women, children experiencing parental abandonment, and friendships grown out of unlikely circumstances. Many of the women in unfortunate situations don't decide to let that limit them, beginning to transform themselves, though the outcomes of many of these changes don't take place during Parrish's stories. All the Roads That Lead from Home is a quick read but a dense one.

Four out of five stars

Many thanks to the author who provided me with a paperback copy.

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