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Short Story Friday: Greyhound by Jean Ryan

Survival Skills: Stories by Jean Ryan is a slim volume, but each of the stories packs a visual and analytical punch as she draws parallels between what it means to be human and the behaviors found in nature.  While I’m still absorbing these stories at a slow pace, I wanted to share a bit about the short story, “Greyhound.”

The narrator seeks out a gift to cheer up her significant other, and finds herself at a greyhound rescue.  These dogs are retired from dog racing after just a few years and mostly due to injury, but Clara’s Gift is special because she chose to stop running at a young age.  While she is like the other greyhounds, shying away from human touch and affection at first, there is a certain intelligence in her eyes.  She meets her new owner, Holly, and the home they will all share, but coaxing does not win the dog over. Ryan paints a cohesive picture of this new family and its tentative steps around one another, but she also draws parallels between Holly and the dog — both wounded and unsure — and how they need to be approached to come out of their shells.

“…she rarely imparts information about herself; most of what I know about her I’ve had to piece together.  If she has fallen short of her goals, if she yearns for something more than me and this house we’re constantly mending, she doesn’t burden me with it.”  (page 10)

Wounded animals generally have a couple of base reactions — lash out or retreat — and in the case of “Greyhound,” retreating seems to be the best option.  While the narrator enjoys fixing things, like the house, there are some things that cannot be fixed, but must heal on their own.  The experience with the new dog teaches her to back away, to patiently wait on the sidelines, something that she’s clearly not accustomed to doing.  Even her role as a homeopathic seller imparts to the reader her desire to fix things, to offer comfort to others, and to provide aid where needed, even if it isn’t.

Ryan’s subtle style builds with each page of this story, and her links between nature and humanity become stronger with each connection.  “Greyhound” is just one powerful story, and I look forward to finishing this collection.

What are your thoughts on short stories?  Do you find them as powerful as novels?

About the Author:

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Napa, California.  A horticultural enthusiast and chef of many years, Jean’s writing has always been her favorite pursuit. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals, including Other Voices, Pleiades, The Summerset Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Blue Lake Review, Damselfly, and Earthspeak. Nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, she has also published a novel, Lost Sister.  Visit her Website.

Comments

  1. I’m very picky when it comes to short stories, mostly because it’s hard to get to know the characters in the way I prefer. But I’ve read some good short stories that help me make that connection. I also have read a lot of short stories that seem to end too soon, like they want to reader to think it’s about something profound and get them to ponder that, but to me, they just seem to end and leave me wanting more.

    “Greyhound” sounds like one worth trying, though. Can’t wait for your thoughts on the whole collection.

  2. You know I love short stories. At their best they are so concentrated and finely honed that you don’t feel shorted by their length.

    • Well said, Janel. I too love the short story form, the distillation it demands. Poised between poems and novels, short fiction offers the best of both: precision on the one side, intrigue on the other.

  3. For years, I thought I didn’t enjoy short stories, but recently, I’ve discovered that there are some wonderful ones out there.

  4. Thanks for this review. I have tried to comment on this blog for weeks now and find that my comment will just not go through. Hope I am successful this time around.

  5. I adore short stories (and as a writer, I find them much more fun to write than longer works) — and I think the best short stories are definitely as powerful as novels. A story like “Greyhound,” for example, contains an entire world — an entire novel, really — in fewer pages but with no less emotional resonance.

  6. Beth Hoffman says:

    When I read Jean’s guest post yesterday, I ordered her collection. I’m really looking forward to reading her work.

    Happy weekend, Serena!

    • I hope that you enjoy the collection as much as I am, Beth. I really think you’ll love it.

    • Thank you very much, Beth, for ordering my book. I’m glad my blog post resonated with you. As they say, marketing is a process, and much more challenging, for me, than writing. But I do get to make new friends, and that’s a nice bonus.

  7. I just read this story last night. I liked it. Felt it was subtle in its message. My co-worker has adopted three Greyhounds from a rescue and what she’s shared with me, is exactly what the couple shared in the book.

    I never considered short stories all that powerful until recently. I have been reading a lot of short stories lately and with my writing dabbling… (yes! I am dabbling) I appreciate how difficult it is to write a short story that is powerful, meaningful and well written in general.

    • I really love how deep these stories are and I’m so glad to hear that you are enjoying these. I knew you were writing (dabbling), and I hope that it is going well.

    • So glad you liked “Greyhound,” Ti. As you may have guessed, I love that breed and cannot walk by a greyhound without stopping to admire it. Their eyes say so much, and their gentleness is endearing.

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