Short stories always appeal to me, so I was happy to accept an ARC of this collection for review. It’s published by Odyssey Books and available in paper and digital.
A housing estate is in shock following a child’s disappearance. A girl and her invisible friend go their separate ways. A father and a son bond over Post-It notes. A single father and his daughter have different approaches to the disappearance of their dog. A father finds his way to coax his agoraphobic son back out into the world.
My Fence is Electric and Other Stories is a collection of award-winning short stories looking at those moments in life that fizz with the electric intensity of change.
What a wonderful collection of stories of varying lengths. Some flash fiction, and others longer, taking the reader to different places and different eras in history through the relationships of people who lived through those times. I enjoyed so many of the stories for a depth of emotion below the simplicity of the narrative.
This Bird She Calls Fear is just one of the stories that captivated me. It so carefully and beautifully played out one word at a time until it became a complete story. When it ended I said, “Oh wow.” I think many other readers are going to be able to relate to the narrators experience with such deep dread that invades a person when they are so unsure about what’s happening to a person they love.
The title story in this collection is cute. It’s short and does have a delightful message in the ending, but it didn’t wow me the way other stories did. In We Sink When We Swim, a man is swimming laps in the pool in the backyard of the house he shares with his wife. While he swims, the man is so afraid to go to the bottom of the pool and look at what was there, even though part of him is pulled to the dark shape down there. There’s a hint that maybe this man killed his wife and her body is down there, so we understand his trepidation about going to see what that dark shape is. I don’t want to spoil the ending of that story for other readers so I won’t reveal what happens to that man who swims laps in his pool every day and thinks about the life he’s had with his wife.
All of the stories are rich in imagery and a deft use of language that paints mental pictures and makes an emotional connection with the reader. There are so many places where the beauty of the narrative made me stop and read a phrase over and over. Here’s one such moment from the story Tiny Indentations, “This was winter; it would take no effort to be cold.”
So simple and so true.
Mark Newman has been shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award, highly commended in the New Writer Prose & Poetry Awards and Bristol Prize longlisted. His work has won competitions judged by Alison Moore, Tania Hershman and David Gaffney. He has been published in Firewords Quarterly, Fiction Desk, and Paper Swans. He has eight stories in the Retreat West competition anthology Inside These Tangles, Beauty Lies