These are stories about power: children without it and adults vying to get or keep it.
A small boy struggles with his parents' divorce, a doctor fails to understand the limits of his medical power, a wronged wife finds a uniquely powerful way to wreak revenge.
Sometimes satirical, sometimes innovative and lyrical, the stories home in on those moments when power can spill into powerlessness: the split-second when a self-satisfied teenager is held at knifepoint by muggers, the trip to the woods with the 'poor kids' which teaches a small girl she's no better than them.
They chart the opposite moments when people wrest back power: a daughter rebels against her violent father, a struggling writer decides to expose a con man arts worker, a little girl who wishes her lost father would come back finds she has magic powers. But it's a slippery thing, power, and these vivid, wry stories spring surprises: for nothing, in the end, is ever quite what it seems.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 112 pages, black & white illustrations
- Publisher: Salt Publishing
- Publication Date: 01/10/2007
- Category: Short stories
- ISBN: 9781844713943
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Review by jcmontgomery
This is a very short anthology: fourteen stories taking up 108 pages. However don’t let the size of the work fool you. This is a book where the narrative proves that much can be conveyed with little.Not that every story is perfect, or perfectly written. It doesn’t need to be, as in many cases I suspect the issues which gnawed at me were due to the author using a regional voice, one with which I am little familiar due to my nationality.I’m not saying as an American I had a hard time with the content, far from it. The theme connecting these stories is universal. It is only the vernacular that at times challenged me. There will always be some subtleties that elude the reader as they have no understanding a particular culture or sub-culture. If an author is skilled enough, these detractions can be overcome, enlightening the reader rather than alienating them.At times, I did feel like I was missing out on a few of those subtleties, but not many. Overall, my experience with this collection was positive.The recurring theme is power. That which you have, which you want, and that which others wield over you. The sense of it as it crashes through a moment in time, sometimes crushing those caught beneath it, others times picking them up and carrying them along for a ride as that is really all they can do – hold on and hope for the best.Primarily woman are the protagonists, but there are children too. Why? I think because of the perception that they are more susceptible and vulnerable. Not that men cannot be similarly affected, however these characters are more likely to tug at ones empathy, drawing the reader in deeper, and thus causing a stronger reaction to their story.I cannot say this will be the case with every reader, just that it was with me.One of the most poignant of the group is “Compass and Torch”. It is aptly named, for in it a father and son seek common ground, but find out how difficult it is to navigate through a current of emotions which should bring them together, yet hold them back.Another one of my favorites, wasn’t – at first. One of the unique aspects of this anthology is the varying styles the author uses. Sometimes straightforward narrative, at others prose-like, nearly poetic. “Daniel Smith Disappears Off the Face of the Earth” is one of those stories that didn’t take hold until I had finished it. I then re-read it for the full effect and was amazed how Baines handles a moment, that moment, when a young man’s world changes forever:This is a collection unlike any other I have ever read. Some stories are barely two pages, the longest at twenty. Some are straight narrative, others lyrical – like poetry. I cannot say I liked them all equally, but I can say enjoyed this anthology. I find this to be an excellent introduction to this author, and will keep an eye out for more of her work. I am giving this 4 stars out of 5.