Alterations by Rita Plush
Synopsis (introduction by the author): Many of these stories hark back more than fifty years, unwritten stories that lived in me the way stories do, as a bit of memory – a certain smell, the turn of a head, or the particular sound of a voice. Or, in the case of “Love, Mona,” in a quilted dime-store night table and a sleeping Mexican painted on a cupboard door. My Brooklyn stories were told through the eyes of a child growing up with the rumble of the El along 86th Street, walking with her mother in her big-shouldered mouton coat, as she did her errands and talked with the shopkeepers. The walkup apartment house where she lived with her family, the damp steamy smell of the lobby where the metal taps on her shoes made a satisfying clicking sound as she ran up and down the marble steps. The seamstress in her apartment building, her friend’s father who seldom spoke, the people her parents knew, the relatives – her ear pressed to the wall, hearing talk that was not for her to hear – the people they spoke of in Yiddish so the child would not understand.
Decades later, they called to me, the memory of them morphing, changing, altering, becoming characters that were and were not them. And I kept writing about the loving and sometimes mysterious bonds of family. I dressed my characters, gave them habits and a particular way to speak, and put them down on the pages, wanting things they could not have, remembering things they wanted to forget. They mended and they sewed, they owned stores and boutiques, they jerry-made contraptions and carved dollhouse furniture. They dug in the dirt and planted tomatoes, they hunted for bear and did a jigsaw puzzle in a far off mountain cabin. Makers and fixers, they had the creative qualities derived from my parents and passed down to me.
Beginning with Frances, the young child grieving for her mother in “Love, Mona,” these stories come full circle to Rusty in “Feminine Products,” pregnant but unmarried, desperate to make a family for her unborn child. Family is a recurrent theme in my stories. I hope they keep you turning pages, interested and entertained as the characters become ‘altered’ by their circumstances and continue to make their way in life.
This collection is available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alterations-Rita-Plush/dp/1938758153 and http://www.amazon.com/Alterations-Rita-Plush/dp/1938758153.
This collection consists of eighteen stories, averaging at just under ten pages each with the titles of: Brooklyn Brisket; Soup; Love, Mona; Dance with Me; Halter Tops and Pedal Pushers; Alterations; The Blatts; Queen of Sheba; Keria; Odette; Red Dress and Curls; Mixed Bag; No Raving Beauty; Turnaround; Going by the Book; What He Had; Signs; and Feminine Products. I’m a titles fan so it’s an intriguing mixture.
Quite often with a collection, I’ll read the shortest pieces first or the ones whose titles grab me most, but this time (and easier when reading onscreen), I’ve read them in the order the author intended.
Brooklyn Brisket: I guessed from the title that this would be based in New York, and having had an aunt (by marriage) from there, I ‘listened’ to it in her accent. This is a very short but charming story, written in vivid detail and I was picturing the events as they happened. The rapport between the mother and daughter shines through and sets the scene for the rest of the collection.
Soup: Again we go back to the ten-year-old narrator and more food (I’m typing this as I read and was due to have some of my housemate’s order-in pizza but he decided he wasn’t hungry but I am when reading this story!) and as well as well as the child and her mother, we have her father and grandmother and again, their characteristics fill the page.
Love, Mona: I assume the narrator is the same as here we find out her name, Frances but then the mother is absent (and I realised early on why from the dialogue) and I wasn’t sure who Mona and Paul were to begin with but then we find out they’re neighbours (I would have liked this a little earlier). I found this story a little confusing at times and, though sadder than the previous two stories, it has another “ahh” ending.
Dance with Me: After three first-person point of view stories, this one switches to third-person. Again it’s about a detached family and is told in a touching manner with the focus again being a young girl, this time named Cynthia. Having a father who’s no longer around myself, it touched a nerve with me, and I’m sure anyone reading this story will empathise with Cynthia wanting to reclaim what is lost. My favourite story so far. Continue reading