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Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown

Source: the author
Paperback, 190 pgs.
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Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown is a collection of short stories set in Ireland with a cast of characters who are like little puzzles to solve. Their lives have not gone as planned and it is how they adapt (or don’t) to changes and bumps in the road that make them so puzzling. Brown also has adeptly created a collection of stories in which characters from one may be connected to those in another. Even as we follow these characters, readers come to realize that where they come from — a tiny village bypassed by progress — is slowly dying. This dying town weighs heavily on these stories and is a character who motivates Brown’s protagonists or forces them to take action.

From “The Lady on the Bridge”

“She felt the same keen nervousness reaching for her husband’s book as she did with the thought of the flooding.” (pg. 1)

“A dark cloud had spread in her chest but she didn’t know why.” (pg. 12)

Like “The Lady on the Bridge,” readers are swept away by the emotion of Brown’s stories — a woman whose husband has a gay lover, a man whose child dies, a brother who has become an anchor, a dyslexic man who seeks revenge on a former teacher, and so many more. Each character is larger than life, living big emotions and trying to bury them beneath the surface. These emotions can bubble to the surface at any time, and they often do. The narration lulls you into a trance as Brown navigates this small town and its cast of characters, but this trance is filled with tension, as she weaves her tales and surprises so seamlessly. The connections between the characters are not always obvious, and some are startling.

Much like the uneven gravel roads of small town Irish living, these characters must learn to cope with their loves, the bumps in the road, and the low hanging clouds obscuring their view. Readers will enjoy the different perspectives provided by some characters of the same person. It is true that you can never know everything about someone, even the ones you are most intimate with.

Masterfully crafted short stories with a multitude of perspectives about a dying town’s small-town life. Don’t miss out on Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #518

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream by Khanh Ha for review in May.

“I live in a coastal town in the deep south of the Mekong Delta. During the war this was IV Corps, which saw many savage fights. Although the battles might have long been forgotten, some places cannot forget.”

Thus begins the harrowing yet poignant story of a North Vietnamese communist defector who spends ten years in a far-flung reform prison after the war, and now, in 1987, a free man again, finds work as caretaker at a roadside inn in the U Minh region. One day new guests arrive at the inn: an elderly American woman and her daughter, an eighteen-year-old Vietnamese girl adopted at the age of five from an orphanage in the Mekong Delta before the war ended. Catherine Rossi has come to this region to find the remains of her son, a lieutenant who went missing-in-action during the war.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream tells the stories of two men in time parallel: Giang, the thirty-nine-year-old war veteran; Nicola Rossi, a deceased lieutenant in the United States Army, the voice of a spirit. From the haunting ugliness of the Vietnam War, the stories of these two men shout, cry, and whisper to us the voices of love and loneliness, barbarity and longing, lived and felt by a multitude of people from all walks of life: the tender adolescent vulnerability of a girl toward a man who, as a drifter and a war-hardened man, draws beautifully in his spare time; the test of love and faith endured by a mother whose dogged patience even baffles the local hired hand who thinks the poor old lady must have gone out of her mind, and whose determination drives her into the spooky forest, rain or shine, until one day she claims she has sensed an otherworldly presence in there with her.

In the end she wishes to see, just once, a river the local Vietnamese call “The River of White Water Lilies,” the very river her son saw, now that all her hopes to find his remains die out. Just then something happens. She finds out where he has lain buried for twenty years and how he was killed.

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown for review.

The stories in this collection are set 1980’s and 90’s Ireland. A by-pass around a small village has rid the residents of their once busy traffic. They feel forgotten by the world. The need to reach out and be heard is explored in every story, from the young woman who starts to have phone conversations with her husband’s gay lover, to the dyslexic man who confronts his cruel teacher years later and the woman whose dreams are shattered because of a married lover. Treading the Uneven Road introduces us to a society that is unraveling and we cannot help feel for Brown’s characters who need to make a choice on how to carry on.

Nanopedia: Poems by Charles Jensen, which I purchased and can’t wait to dig into.

Taking the form of “the world’s smallest encyclopedia” of American culture, the prose poems in Nanopedia explore concepts coined in or corrupted by (or both) America from vantage points that are both deeply personal and politically charged.

Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens edited by Emma Eden Ramos. 3 of my poems are in this anthology and there’s a giveaway for it here. Purchases support The Trevor Project.

Love_is_Love is a collection of poems, short stories, and visual art for LGBTQIA+ teens. All of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project, an organization that has been saving the lives of LGBTQIA+ teens since 1998.

 

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field for review.

“It’s the end of the world,” said a gloomy voice.
Bear looked all around. “No it isn’t,” said Bear cautiously. “It’s a lovely sunny day.”

In this laugh-out-loud funny story, a rabbit and bear discover that things are always better when they’re shared with a friend.

Bear wakes up early from hibernation. If she can’t sleep, then at least she can make a snowman.

Rabbit has never made a snowman, but he definitely wants to make one that’s better than Bear’s.

However, with an avalanche and a hungry wolf heading his way, Rabbit soon realises that it might be nice to have a friend on your side. Especially when it comes to building snowmen.

A tale of friendship, gravity, and just a little bit of poo.

What did you receive?