Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Appearances and Other Stories

Appearances and Other Stories by Margo Krasne
Wasteland Press; October 28, 2012
Trade Paperback, 160 pages
ISBN-13: 9781600477911 http://www.margotkrasnespeakup.com/

In this debut collection, Krasne wields insightful irony and cathartic black humor to illuminate her themes of loss, yearning and survival, bringing to it a biting female perspective. An adept stylist with an ear for dialogue and an eye for personal foibles, Krasne cleverly captures the distinct voices of her characters as they strive to negotiate the subtle and not-so-subtle minefields of family obligation and personal conflict. She has a knack for getting inside her characters' heads as they strive to keep up appearances. Readers will most surely recognize themselves, their friends and family members in all of these beautifully rendered stories.
My Thoughts:
Appearances and Other Stories is Margo Krasne's debut short story collection. The twelve story collection is organized into two parts. Part One: The Wallach's, contains nine stories about the Wallachs, a Jewish family living in New York City. The stories focus on Alice, the youngest daughter, and how she perceives her family, but mainly her parents. Each story is exquisitely crafted to capture the misunderstandings, affection, resentments, and history that happen in every family. The stories cover Alice as a teen to an adult. In Part Two: The Other Stories, Krasne's shares three separate, unrelated short stories. 
Stories included are:
Part One: The Wallach's: The Bacher Boy; The Move; In The Living Room; Truce; Coda; Last Wishes and All That; The Fifth Question; Appearances; The Last Rumba.
Part Two: The Other Stories: At The Algonquin; Re-unions; Stopping Time.
All the stories in this collection are stunning, extraordinary... The Wallach family stories were heart breaking, but so brilliant in their execution and poignant in their revelations. If forced to pick one story that was my least favorite, I'd have to say "Re-unions," but that is simply based on my reaction to it, certainly not on the quality of the writing.
Very Highly Recommended 
Margo Krasne, born and raised in Manhattan, has always led two lives. As a radio advertising producer, she sculpted; as a sculptor, she was an extra in commercials, and for the past 24 years, as a communications coach and author of Say it with Confidence, she writes fiction whenever possible.
"You did go out with the Bacher boy, Alice, I remember it distinctly."
Alice looks at her mother propped up in bed - the stained rose-satin bed jacket in sharp contrast to her mother's alabaster skin now tinged with yellow violet veins - and tells a half-truth, "Well, I don't, Mom. I don't remember going out with him at all."
"But you did, dear. I'm certain of it."
"If you say so," Alice says as she rearranges the pillows. "There! Better?"
Alice needs to change the subject. The last thing she wants is to have old resentments creep in; she's worked too long and hard to put them at rest. Besides, this is not the time. Not the time at all. "The Bacher Boy" pg 3
Mr. Wallach continues his harangue and Alice tries hard not to listen. But her eyes well up distorting the woman in the painting, and the two on the sofa, until they appear as shapes seen through a windshield in a rainstorm. Alice digs the nail of her third finger into her thumb. It's a trick her father aught her. Inflict pain on one part of your body to keep your feelings from showing. Only it doesn't work. Well, she will not break down in front of him. Not! "In the Living Room" pg. 25-26
They had been at war since she was six months old. A war, according to her mother, Alice had started. "I know you were six months old. Six months! We just couldn't understand it."
Well, neither could Alice. But she'd accepted her mother's version.... Well, no more. Not to render metaphorical overkill, but digesting what her mom had been dishing out was over. The time for a refutation had come. Besides, she was under express orders to "Do it!"
"Mom, you have to think it strange I was capable of hating anyone, nevertheless my own father, at six months of age?" She knows the response will be borne, as always, on a sigh of resignation. It is.
"I'm not saying it wasn't strange, just that's the way it was."
"You've got to realize how crazy that sounds."
"Oh, Alice, please. This is neither the time nor the place." "Truce" pg. 29
What had her first therapist said? Rebels are attached to that which they rebel against? "Appearance" pg. 71
A part of my brain is frozen. Another part has this weird idea that the doctor's pronouncement is my just desserts for hating suspense. That this entire scenario is tied to my life-long habit of skipping to the last page. That's it, isn't it? Due to my refusal to read along, moment by moment, page by page, without knowing how a story ends, I have been sentenced to death - the time and date approximate, but definite to occur. "Stopping Time" pg. 125
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the author and Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for review purposes.    

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