Some short stories tell simple tales to immediate effect. Others draw the reader deeper, leaving a lingering taste on the tongue or haunting music in the air. Cheryl Snell’s tales in this collection belong to that second type. Bounded at both ends by the song of a harmonica, the author creates vividly real and wounded characters. There’s Roger, falling to twin temptations, beginning a tune but never quite ending it as the heat wave passes through. There’s Zoe, filling her mind with facts and detail like Novocain to hide her pain. A fat sister recalls how she became who she is then finds it isn’t shape that defines her after all. A mother is still a child and another mother’s maybe falling in love.
Cheryl Snell creates scenes and memories like poetry, filling the senses and drawing the reader in. Stories flow through the eyes of her characters, telling truths they’ve failed to see, and blossoming each into singular shapes of honesty. What matters? People matter, a combination of how they see themselves and their relationships, a vivid mixture of different layers of existence.
Hurt birds, popsicles, harmonica’s song—like elements of a well-written tune the refrains repeat through these stories making this truly a collection to savor, not just a random grouping of random tales. If you want short and simple, these stories aren’t for you. But if you want those deep lingering tones, a harmonica’s birdsong haunting the basement’s gloom, this collection’s for you.
Disclosure: I was lucky enough to obtain a free ecopy of this book in a special offer.