Today’s book review of a short story collection is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
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Amazon synopsis: Following the success of Paula Margulies’ acclaimed novel, Coyote Heart, comes this collection of extraordinary stories about love, loss, and the secrets that bind family members together. In Face Value: Collected Stories, Margulies explores the themes of compassion, regret, loneliness, loyalty to family, and the search for true love. Tender and haunting, with brilliant touches of humor and magical realism, these stories will claim a place in the hearts of readers everywhere.
This collection is available via http://www.amazon.com/Face-Value-Collected-Paula-Margulies-ebook/dp/B00HTNVF9Q and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Face-Value-Collected-Paula-Margulies-ebook/dp/B00HTNVF9Q.
Paula Margulies has over twenty years of experience in communications, marketing, and public relations for all types of products and services. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she earned her master’s degree in Language Arts and Literature, Margulies also holds degrees in marketing communications and education. She has served as the marketing and publicity director for large companies and small businesses and is an instructor in business communications at community colleges throughout Southern California. She specializes in all aspects of marketing and publicity, including writing press releases and creating media kits, setting up speaking and reading appearances, conducting blog tours, garnering book reviews, and setting up print, radio, and television interviews.
The collection consists of nine stories but is first dedicated to Paula’s father who died (aged 78) last year. This set the tone for the first story, Bird Song, which is a poignant love and loss tale of the narrator’s relationship (in first-person viewpoint) with her father, prompted by an injured bird.
The shortest story (five pages) is ‘Obedience Training’, another tale of love and loss (and a rabid dog), this time in third-person, with a surprise ending. I loved Carolyn’s reaction to the two gossiping secretaries.
Negatives (what’s not there) is something often forgotten when writing prose and the title story, ‘Face Value’, starts with these and we’re back in first-person. Characters are the most important aspect of fiction because if we don’t care about, or are at least interested in, the characters, the plot can be the best one every written but most readers won’t continue. Here we have an interesting array of family and neighbours. Names are something I keep a close eye on because they can often be too similar-looking or sounding and can get confusing but here, other than the main character ‘Francie’ and neighbours ‘the Franks’, we have very distinctive names: Johnny, Carmella, Dominic, Emma, Snowflake and Peter (two rabbits), and Tim and Todd (I usually suggest not having names starting with the same letter but these two are father and son, and in real life children often have the same initial as a parent – I do – although we later have a Tina so I would have changed that). Francie draws pictures of her brother and I love drawing (more cartooning) and this reminded me to dig out my sketchbooks. Having said earlier that we should care about our characters, there will be some who we’re not supposed to like and in this case it was the mother, although some of the events made her the way she was. It’s another sad tale but I like the way it comes full circle to Francie looking out the window at the world going by.
Then we have ‘Free Fall’ which goes back to third-person and more great names; Irv and Rose. I’m more a fan of dialogue but Paula uses some great description for her characters and it’s clear she uses people-watching to inspire her fiction. The dialogue in this story is realistic and I enjoyed the contrast between the two characters (age and family size). Another aspect of writing is to use active verbs and here we have ‘Leticia squeezed a blob of ketchup on her plate and stabbed at it with a French fry.’ Simple but effective.
My father died the same week as 9/11 so it’s always eerie to read about that day and although Irv doesn’t see the reports on it, the end has a particularly moving parallel to what happened to some of the people in the towers.