Short stories seem to be locked in my head in association with high school English classes, and I can’t say that I’ve read many in the years since. It would have been an awful shame if that perception had kept me away from this summer’s release of Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis.
Talk about being selective with words- Willis lays out fourteen distinctive stories in less than three hundred pages, all separate entities, but threaded with common themes and mannerisms. Each story contains vividly painted characters, all united in similar sorrow or loss or searching. What a talent it takes to create a vivid picture of multidimensional characters in only a few pages. Without the advantage of a novel’s many chapters, these stories are simply snapshots of a moment, a conflict, a fear, a love, a mistake. But the snapshots tell so much in very little time, and the nuances of Willis’ descriptive language make fifteen pages feel like a novella.
There’s no denying that the material here is heavy and dark, although with a title like this one should already be prepared for some serious content. Willis has a masterful command of words– beautifully constructed phrases and sentences kept popping out at me, wanting to be remembered. I enjoyed the challenge of following her often non-chronological story telling style, with the narrative often transitioning between periods of time in the characters’ lives, providing important or relevant snippets of information or experiences that help to put the current moment in perspective.
Compact, tight writing that abounds with well developed characters and intense imagery make Vanishing and Other Stories a highly recommended collection of short stories, as well as an entry on our Five Star Reads list.
Dawn loves to be wowed by new-to-her authors, relishing in others’ abilities to weave words together so beautifully. When she’s not reading, she can be found blogging away at my thoughts exactly.