Publication Date: January 29, 2013
This is a book of five short stories exploring varied aspects of modern life. In “Pretty Girl” a young girl meets up with a Carny Worker and in “For the Love of Dog” a woman’s connection with her dog proves stronger than any bond of moral code.
The author, Jeri Walker-Bickett, provided me with a copy of this anthology in exchange for my review.
Back in the university days, I read an assigned short story by John Updike called “A&P.” Over the years, this story has resonated as the prime example in my mind of the exploration of the modern daily life. The things that go on that we don’t see. Reading Such is Life by Jeri Walker-Bickett and the ease with which she writes a narrative infused with detail, I was reminded of that story’s last read so long ago. Walker-Bickett’s stories, for the most part, have that feeling of omniscience. The idea that this is what someone, who is paying attention to those around them, will see. In the first story, “Pretty Girl,” the main character heads into a gas station with plastic-molded booths and has something to eat. She sees her teacher out with a man and flirting in a way that one might not think their teacher would. As the teacher walks away, the character notes:
A yin-yang tattoo on Ms. Whipple’s inner-thigh went in and out of sight as her legs brushed back and forth. (“Pretty Girl”)
The character is sitting down, so it’s logical that she might note the detail and it is that sort of clear and easy detail that enhances the setting for the reader. Walker-Bickett shows a clear love of setting in her stories. She picks the readers up from their couch and places them in the seat across the booth from the main character, or in the doorway of the grocery store (“For the Love of Dog”), or along the Mississippi with a raving housewife (“River Walk”).
There is a feel of contemporary southern fiction to most of the stories. My favorite story in the anthology is the last, “River Walk.” It is about a housewife in New Orleans with clearly deep problems contemplating her life. The range of emotions conveyed in the very short story stuns the reader, and I believe that’s the author’s intent, for the reader to contemplate the character’s quiet desperation.
Walker-Bickett was an English teacher in her former life and it shows. Her stories are flawlessly written with a weight to them that leads a reader to delve beyond the surface, which is something I hated to do as a student. I prefer to think that one day a person got bored and decided to write, but that is clearly not the case for some authors and this is one of them. The stories are joined in style but diverse in topic. If you are a short story reader and like American and Southern Contemporary Fiction, this is a wonderful book of short stories to pick up. Such is Life is an aptly titled anthology.
Read an excerpt and buy Such Is Life by Jeri Walker-Bickett on