Jun 22, 2016
Author: Nancy Christie
Publisher: Pixie Hall Press
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Overall: 3 out of 5
“Girl,” my mama had said to me the minute she entered my hospital room, “on the highway of life, you’re always traveling left of center.” (from “Traveling Left of Center)” What happens when people face life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared? They may choose to allow fate to dictate the path they take-a decision that can lead to disastrous results. The characters in “Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories” are unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, relying instead on coping methods that range from the passive (“The Healer”) and the aggressive (“The Clock”) to the humorous (“Traveling Left of Center”) and hopeful (“Skating on Thin Ice”). But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash? Included in this collection of short stories are the critically acclaimed Alice in Wonderland and Annabelle.
This was a great collection of short stories and Nancy Christie is clearly a magnificent writer of the short story. These were intriguing and attention grabbing from the first story to the last. They are all connected by the sense that life didn’t go precisely as it should have, and that there is always something waiting just around the corner. That being said, it wasn’t always good things waiting around the corner. In the case of Watching for Billy an old lady is taken advantage of, despite her unprecedented kindness. However there is also The Storyteller which despite it’s dark theme is about a woman who gives hope to children through her stories. I could go on and on about what I found in each of these stories, because despite their depressing nature, there was still some part of me that identified with little aspects. Perhaps it is that I can understand the yearning people have to do something different with their lives, even when their current life is satisfying. I think it is part of being human to always want something more. I did really enjoy these short stories, although there were times when I wished the concept had been fleshed out into a novel length story, it just felt like there was more to the story. This book would be great for people who love short stories, or who are interested in reading about the realities of daily life, I would give it 3 out of 5 stars.
3/5 – Worth Reading
**Please Note: This review is my honest opinion and I did not receive monetary compensation from it.**
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Excerpt from “Annabelle”
“When I was eight,” she answered obliquely, forehead creased with the effort of memory, “my mother found a young fox caught in a trap at the edge of the woods.”
Outside, the cold December sun gleamed fitfully through bare branches, but Annabelle felt again the warmth of a May morning and saw the sunlight dancing in her mother’s hair and on the reddish brown fur of the injured animal cradled in her arms.
“She brought it up to the house, trailing bits of leaves behind her, and she didn’t even notice her dress was smeared with its blood. I think she was going to bandage its leg. It was bleeding quite steadily… cut to the bone by the sharp teeth of the steel trap. Or perhaps it had tried to gnaw itself free…” She closed her eyes for a moment as the agony of the trapped animal flooded through her. Trapped, with no means to escape except by inflicting more pain on an already bruised body.
Although sometimes, Annabelle thought, it was the only way.
“But just as she stepped through the French doors, my father saw her, and just as quickly wanted to paint her… the way my mother looked, carrying that poor suffering animal.
“It must have been near death by then. It didn’t struggle, not even when my father twisted its head against my mother’s breast and curled its bloodstained tail around her wrist.
“She stood there for nearly two hours, trapped in the act of entering her home just as the fox had been trapped, until my father was satisfied with what he had put on the canvas. Then he released her. But by then the fox had died… in my mother’s arms, while she stood patiently as my father painted her.
“He sold that picture for quite a bit of money, I think.” Annabelle looked down at her hands, surprised to see she had been clenching them, surprised to see how wet they were with tears—why had she started to cry? It was only an animal after all, not nearly as important as her father’s art.
“What did your mother do with the fox?” Jules asked softly.
Annabelle wiped the tears from her hands. She mustn’t cry. She must not cry.
“She set it down on the loveseat in the corner,” and Annabelle-the-child watched with what grace and tenderness her mother placed the bloody, lifeless body on the soft white cushions.
“Then she went to my father, who was so absorbed in his work that he never even noticed the fox had died. He was like that, you know,” Annabelle explained, almost matter-of-factly. “When he was painting, nothing else mattered. It was just the way he was.”
She wasn’t certain if she was explaining it to Jules, or the little girl and her mother, who both waited helplessly for his attention to leave the canvas.
“She pulled the neckline of her dress until the buttons released the fragile material and it fell like rain past her shoulders to the floor. My father looked up then. He saw my mother standing there, smears of blood on her shoulders and across her breast. Perhaps the fox had bit her in its agony.
“He ran his fingers lightly across the blood and then on the canvas, adding a touch of dark red to the painting. And then,” Annabelle looked blindly out the window, “he reached for my mother. He never even knew when I left the room, just as he never knew when the fox had died.”