Shelf Life of Hap­pi­ness

Vir­ginia Pye Press 53 (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $17.95 (186pp) 978-1-941209-82-0

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

Draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the most ex­is­ten­tially bored quar­ters of the sweater-set crowd, the short sto­ries of Vir­ginia Pye’s Shelf Life of Hap­pi­ness are un­set­tling, sigh­ing laments.

They or­ga­nize church fundrais­ers and clean their chil­dren’s faces, el­bow with so­ci­ety and act upon cer­e­mony. But they also live through—or don’t—betrayal, disil­lu­sion­ment, and disease. For the char­ac­ters of Vir­ginia Pye’s sto­ries, to de­clare that the world is “a beau­ti­ful place and the peo­ple in it good” is “an act of de­fi­ance.”

Prone to cringe at their own mo­ments of pom­pos­ity, Pye’s char­ac­ters are teach­ers, artists, par­ents, and stu­dents liv­ing or­di­nary, be­neath-ther­adar lives in long-charted ter­ri­to­ries. What binds their sto­ries to­gether is that they all yearn for more, even when “more” is un­de­fined and po­ten­tially grue­some. The se­crets that they keep are that they have few se­crets; to fill in the gap, dogs are gunned down and spar­rows are buried. A small-town fam­ily’s mur­der in­spires un­spo­ken, thrilling fears.

In “Cry­ing in Ital­ian,” a mother and wife spends her fam­ily’s va­ca­tion “look­ing for the fin­ger bones and fe­murs of saints,” as well as for the words to tell her hus­band that it’s over. In the wist­ful and mourn­ful “Best Man,” a Reno elope­ment may be easy to pro­cure, but reck­on­ing the fluid lines be­tween love and friend­ship is ever com­pli­cated.

In one story, an as­pir­ing young skater feels very wise as he ap­praises his par­ents’ com­pro­mise-laden lives and looks to­ward his own fu­ture. In an­other, an ag­ing Ozarks artist is wooed by, and is ex­pected to woo, a gallery owner—but at what cost? What’s dead stays dead in “Easter Morn­ing.”

Shelf Life of Hap­pi­ness thwarts com­fort and over­turns cer­tain­ties with its re­minders that life is more lively when its rhythms are re­sisted.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.