It’s March and I’m participating in the Reading Ireland Month for 2019. This one is a literary fiction by author L M Brown. It is an anthology, short stories of ’80s and ’90s Ireland, Treading the Uneven Road.
Genre: Short Stories and Anthologies, Literary Fiction
Print Length: 208 pages
Publication Date: Happy Release Day! March 15, 2019
Source: Direct author request
Title Link: Treading the Uneven Road
The stories in this collection are set 1980’s and 90’s Ireland. A by-pass around a small village has rid the residents of their once busy traffic. They feel forgotten by the world. The need to reach out and be heard is explored in every story, from the young woman who starts to have phone conversations with her husband’s gay lover, to the dyslexic man who confronts his cruel teacher years later and the woman whose dreams are shattered because of a married lover. Treading the Uneven Road introduces us to a society that is unraveling and we cannot help feel for Brown’s characters who need to make a choice on how to carry on.
This short story collection appears as an emotional exposition of the people of Sligo, Ireland after their bustling little town dwindles to locals following a by-pass installation. The remaining residents each have their own stories to tell, many of which are solemn, somber expressions of the town’s residents of the 80s and 90s. All those hopes, dreams, heartache, and disappointments are explored, dissected. The characters are well developed and emotive, often engaging or annoying, young and thoughtless, or older but not much wiser. They are ordinary people and could be the couple next door.
Each short story examines the lives of friends, a couple, young or old, and as each vignette concludes begins another examination of folk intertwined as many times happens in small towns, each knowing, but perhaps not completely understanding, the history of their neighbor. The stories do not necessarily follow a chronological pattern or even as first or third person. They can be a bit confusing until you begin to realize how the relationship of each of the nine stories fit in the puzzle that will create the finished view.
Each of the stories paint a dark picture of marriage gone loveless, childhood friends close as brothers whose paths veer into unforeseeable directions, choices made on experience and family values, perceptions found lacking. The prose is laid out in folksy storytelling style with a minimum of dialogue. The narrators are simple, often related by a child with maternal abandonment issues. It’s easy to harbor anger, not so easy to find release. Spurned or lost love sets a life course and plans get derailed. Sometimes for years. And when tragedies happen, who is to blame and can you ever get past that?
The little town is described coolly, detached, but clings to one major vestige, the statue of Our Lady, as viewed by each of the main characters somewhat differently but always as a central grounding moment. There are points at which you’ve realized that it was the completion of a second story that gave you the whole picture. Reconciliation, however, is not easy and there is a pervading sense of loneliness in each of the parts. Even when together, they are apart.
It is upon completion of the final story, chapter, that you get that “ah ha!” instant and the final small piece fits snugly into place. The sweet vision of the boy and his uncle, the uncle relating little stories of moral teaching character while the owner/waitress of the bakery/cafe unobtrusively listens in. Dang, that’s heavy! But leaves such food for thought. And it’s likely you’ll wrestle with this one for some time.
I received a request for a read/review directly from the author and these are my own opinions. Recommended to those who enjoy powerful literary expression.
Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars
The Author: L.M Brown is the author of the novel Debris. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines. She grew up in Sligo. Ireland, but now resides in Massachusetts with her husband, three daughters, a dog, and a bearded dragon.
©2019 V Williams