Our Love Could Light the World
Anne Leigh Parrish
She Writes Press
paperback, 192 pages
a copy of this book was provided through TLC Book Tours
Our Love Could Light the World is a beautifully crafted and finely imagined book of linked stories. I was eager to request this collection for review because whenever possible I like to read contemporary short stories. Anne Leigh Parrish's collection is gritty and realistic in the tradition of Andre Dubus III or Elizabeth Strout. I was reminded a little of Olive Kitteridge by Parrish's unsparing yet compassionate portraits of her characters.
The stories feature the Dugan family: mother Lavinia, buckling under the strain of supporting five children and a husband, and the children running wild in various ways. Lavinia's husband, Potter, is an inept father who uses whiskey to blunt the edges of his pain. And Potter's sister Patty is called in to help when the family unravels too far.
What I really loved about this collection was the way the author deeply understood her characters, and thus made the reader understand, and even love, these ordinary people, flailing around ineffectually in their own ways, but doing it in a fashion that is, occasionally, beautiful.
The collection comes full circle in a sense. This is what I really love about interconnected stories: they have the brevity and beauty of individual stories, and they tell individual moments of the character's lives, but, taken as a whole, they can make the reader feel a sense of deep understanding of how live works. Linked stories, at their best, can give the reader a sense of how all life is interconnected, how every moment in each of our lives unfolds into the next moment, and so creates a story and a life.
My favorite character in Our Love Could Light the World is Angie, the teenage daughter who grows into a capable young woman over the course of the collection. Angie, at some points in the collection, could seem like the girl least likely to redeem herself. She is a foul-mouthed, coarse teenager with spiky green hair, overweight and miserable, and somehow the caretaker in this dysfunctional family. Parrish develops the character of Angie through several stories, and it is one of the pleasures of the collection to see and understand how and why Angie becomes the woman she is. And it is so much the way life really is.
If you like realistic short stories with well-developed characters, and especially if you like linked story collections, I highly recommend Anne Leigh Parrish's Our Love Could Light the World. Her characters will stay with you, and she may make you see that annoying and dysfunctional family down the street in a new light.
She Writes Press: http://shewritespress.com