Today’s book review, of the three short stories in Carol’s collection, is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
‘The Way Home’ by Carol Holland March
Whether a place or a relationship, all the characters in The Way Home are seeking what they’ve lost, and the clues they follow are just beyond the veil. A metaphysical treat for those who like their stories off the beaten path, their fantasy balanced on the edge of reality.
When a volcano threatens the Valley of the Caheya, a priestess sets out to recover the stolen crystal that can create a bridge to another world. But facing the demon and the venomous black sea that guard the crystal is just the beginning. Mata must confront her ancient past and her desire for revenge if she is to save her family and the Caheya from extinction. The Way Home is a journey into the past to save the future as Mata seeks redemption from an unlikely source. But will she be able to coax the bridge from the crystal before the volcano wipes out everything in the valley?
Other stories include The Conversation, where a thoroughly-urban poet searches for home in the desert she has always feared and follows a wolf to meet her destiny.
In Desert Song, a young woman embarks reluctantly on a road trip, where she is chased by a ghostly skeleton, and faces buried memories so she can open to herself to love.
In The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly, a young man on the verge of adulthood falls in love with a mysterious winged girl who cannot become who she is without her twin. But her twin is on another world, and how will her family ever find her?
This collection starts with ‘Desert Song’ and a brilliant opening: ‘The Chevy truck looked like I had been painted by a team of monkeys on acid’. The story settles into first-person past tense, set in 1982 – my mid teens – and the humour continues, told by our protagonist, Franny. This story is a tale of her simple life with Ray, and a journey they made in the aforementioned truck.
There are serious moment but they’re told with humility. I was intrigued at the mention of a skeleton and we have two other conflicts (her relationship with her family and her feelings about Ray).
It’s only a way into the story that we find out there’s more going on with her emotions. I love quirky but towards the end the story became a little too surreal and I struggled with what was real and not. It’s a shame because it detracted from a great story. I may have misread the metaphoric aspect of this story, but for me, it would have worked better without the burial scene as Ray hadn’t seen the skeleton until then, which I found more believable and it was Franny’s story.
Next was ‘The Conversation’ which starts with an extract from Barry Lopez’ ‘Oh Wolves and Men’ which sets the tone for another dark piece. This too is set in the desert and mentions San Francisco, and we have another female protagonist, Terry*, this time told in third-person. *Terry, in the UK, would usually be male, female being spelled Terri.
I love characters who are writers and Terry, as we know from the synopsis, is a poet. ‘The Conversation’ is another quirky story with absent mothers and lurking creatures. I felt the repetition of ‘cinnamon’ wolf unnecessary as we didn’t need to be reminded of the colour until we have a black wolf which picked up the action of the story.
I love unusual titles and ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly’ was the one I’d been looking forward to.
Another first-person story, this immediately starts with a fantastical element and tells the story of Gar and Dresa, different species speaking different languages, but communicating nonetheless. It is a very touching story of jealousy and loss told in exquisite writing.
For time reasons, I didn’t go on to read the collection’s title novella but I’m sure anyone reading the three stories would have carried on.
Being a freelance editor, I’m always looking for errors and there was very little I’d change with these stories (more new paragraphs for passages in time). The punctuation was spot on, especially in dialogue which is always a challenge.
While paranormal isn’t a genre I would normally read, the writing is strong and engaging. The surreal aspects of the stories took me away from the plot but fans of the genre will love it.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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