The Pa­tron Saint of Lost Girls

Mau­reen Aitken South­east Mis­souri State Univer­sity Press (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $18 (172pp), 978-0-9979262-7-9

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - LINDA THORLAKSON

Mau­reen Aitken’s The Pa­tron Saint of Lost Girls pre­tends to be a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries but is not. In­stead, ad­van­tages of both short-story and novel for­mats are fused into a mu­ta­tion which is nei­ther. By the time this sub­terfuge is ex­posed, it is more de­serv­ing of a stand­ing ova­tion than an apol­ogy.

The book’s sto­ries fea­ture fe­male nar­ra­tors dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from one an­other. Whether they are sis­ters, artists, daugh­ters, friends, writ­ers, or lovers, each is in the midst of some cru­cial re­la­tion­ship on the verge of a catas­tro­phe. Ten­sion mounts and dis­si­pates as dan­ger and doom dance with laugh­ter and a re­lent­less search for mean­ing. Ev­ery story de­liv­ers its punch: ei­ther some fleet­ing sen­sa­tion too ex­tra­or­di­nary for words or an epiphany worth the weight of what­ever agony pre­ceded it.

Metaphors, di­a­logue, play­ful cyn­i­cism, and sus­pense spur plots, char­ac­ters, and re­la­tion­ships to­ward their un­ex­pected (but, in hind­sight, in­evitable) con­clu­sions. Rainy days are “bruised,” Grand­fa­ther’s car is “stale but kind,” and lawns catch fire “as if they were monks protest­ing the war.”

Since only in­for­ma­tion es­sen­tial to each nar­ra­tive is in­cluded, re­sult­ing gaps func­tion like those op­ti­cal il­lu­sions cre­ated by white space in vis­ual art: en­hanc­ing per­cep­tual depth of all that ap­pears on the page through the ab­sence of what doesn’t.

One story’s brush­strokes paint over the next without oblit­er­at­ing what came be­fore or dis­tort­ing what comes af­ter. While no story’s com­plete­ness re­quires ghost im­ages to bleed through, the fi­nal one could never be the master­piece it is without them.

Given the as­tound­ing re­sult of Aitken’s web of in­de­pen­dent yet in­ti­mately re­lated sto­ries, The Pa­tron Saint of Lost Girls re­veals a pre­vi­ously un­der­ex­plored genre, one that sto­ry­tellers have failed to take ad­van­tage of. Its rare tech­nique is far wor­thier of be­ing the norm than the ex­cep­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.