Soon Paula would begin complaining that he didn’t understand her, didn’t appreciate her, didn’t love her enough, when in fact he loved her so much his heart often felt shredded by it. But people always wanted words for all that roiled inside you.
Lily King’s story collection she has created characters who sort through complicated emotions, feelings that roil and sometimes settle so deep they just can’t be expressed easily to others. People are left behind, children live in the remains of broken marriages, social class divisions shadow moments, but too there is the thrill of teens on the verge of young adulthood. Sometimes kids are dealing with situations too heavy for the young, wanting to be rid of their parents while longing to fold themselves into their love at the same time.
In the first story, Creature, teenager Carol is hired as a live in babysitter for the wealthy Pike family. Living in the enormous mansion she plays at independence from her parents fighting, tries to forget the small apartment she and her mother live in and can loosen her worries over the problems of her father. With the romantic novel Jane Eyre occupying space in her mind, and making her own money, she’s ripe for “trying things out”. When Hugh arrives, order is disrupted and things get exciting. How much of a grown up education can she handle?
Five Winters in Tuesday a single father, bookseller Mitchell finds more life inside his books than in other people. His daughter Paula longs for him to be more involved, kinder with their customers but it is Kate, his employee, that brings more life into the store. Paula finds a friend in her, a woman who can help her with things no girl wants to turn to their father for, she fills the void her absent mother left in her wake. Can Mitchell change, should he?
When in Dordogne it is the summer of 1986 and a boy distant from his much older parents forms a close bond with the two young men hired to care for him while his parents head to France to help his father ‘get better’ from what ails him. Through the antics of Ed and Grant, their teasing and joy, he falls in love with a brotherhood he has never had. If only they could stay forever.
North Sea Oda takes her daughter Hanne to an island on the North Sea but it is costing her money she doesn’t really have after her husband Fritz’s death. Neither of them wanted the vacation, and yet here they are, miserable. If only they could stop pushing each other away and grieve over Hanne’s father, tend to their deep loss. Hanne isn’t willing to share her joys with her mother, the two drifting apart. Oda is stunned by the circumstances her husband left them in, helpless to change anything. Will they comfort one another? Other stories follow, each as engaging as the last. People aching through the vanishings of loved ones, turns and splits of fate, reeking with disasters love causes, be it with a partner or family. Stories about Motherhood and how it dominates every crevice of your life, the struggling desire to create while consumed by caring for others. The story that touched me the most, left a lump of feeling in my throat, was Waiting for Charlie. An aging grandfather visits his granddaughter at the hospital bedside after a terrible accident, one that has left her body in ruins. They are now, in a sense, alike- unfairly. It’s such a short story but it ripped my heart out. Lily King writes about the storms of our emotions, so often impossible to understand and find direction when you’re in the midst of it. Well done.
Published November 9, 2021