Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review: Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish

Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish
Published by: She Writes Press
Published on: May 23, 2013
Page Count: 192
Genre: Short stories
My reading format: Paperback mailed to me by author
Available formats: Paperback, Kindle e-book editions

My Review:

There are countless examples of literary families who love each other but show that in interesting ways: the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice, the McCourts in Angela's Ashes, the Wheelers in Revolutionary Road, the Walls family of The Glass Castle and the Berglands in Freedom all come to mind. These are complicated people; many of them have good intentions. And we as readers enjoy a window into their world.

In 2011 Anne Leigh Parrish published her first short story collection entitled All the Roads that Lead From Home (see review). Its 11 stories featured many female characters searching for the missing piece from their lives, children in difficult situations and friendships. The last story in that collection, "Our Love Could Light the World" became the lead story in and the namesake of Parrish's most recently published short story collection. In this story the Dugan family moved into a new home on a street where they didn't get to know their neighbors too well. People living nearby watched from afar the five children, the mother who left for work each morning in a power suit and the father who didn't seem to do much of anything.

Beyond "Our Love Could Light the World," the following 11 stories followed this family chronologically but in some cases with several years elapsing between stories. In these vignettes of Dugan family life readers see a marriage fall apart and another one begin, children grow and develop, and new relationships formed.

Lavinia is the mother of these five children. In her marriage to Potter, Lavinia was in a tough spot: the family breadwinner and emotionally distant from her children. During her marriage to her boss Chip, they can afford for her not to work but she doesn't use much of her freedom to make up for lost time with her children. Like so many women, perhaps she just did the best she could. Her good character really shined through when she confronts daughter Angie's professor/significant other in a way that he knows she means business. Angie remains unaware and therefore unembarrassed about her mother's intervention. Lavinia, who was never much of a cheerleader for her oldest daughter, did a sneaky, wonderful thing for her daughter, showing the complexity of her character in the process.

Angie is perhaps the most intriguing character in the collection. We watch her evolve from a foul-mouthed, green-haired teenager to a young professional committed to helping others in bad situations while she struggles to maintain her own difficult romantic relationship at home. Potter intervenes with his adult daughter's relationship, exhibiting the concern for Angie that I'd been hoping for. Patty, the Dugan children's aunt, plays another important role, particularly in Angie's development as a young adult.  

Parrish has again created memorable, complex characters, but this time we're able to hang on to them even longer.

Four out of five stars

Many thanks to the author for mailing me a copy of her book. 

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