AND YET THEY WERE HAPPY by Helen Phillips

Book Quote:

“We’re not the kind of people who take taxicabs.”

Book Review:

Review by Maggie Hill (AUG 3, 2011)

Like a fairy tale, way (way) back in the day when you could still be enchanted, and yet they were happy makes you feel giddy and haunted at the same time. I found myself blinking a lot while reading, as if I couldn’t quite believe what my mind was seeing. Slowly, I realized:  I believe.

This is a novel for lovers – of wonderful writing, of mothers, of stories, of husbands, of the nature of the beast. What’s being traversed, in this fabulous world, is the personal odyssey, the high drama, the biblical quality, of joining with another human being in matrimony. Sure, it happens every day….but the literate, unique mind of the author gives us a peek inside the kaleidoscope of one young couple’s journey like you’ve never heard it before. Ever.

Here is its geography: there are 19 chapters, each with roughly five two-page stories. The journey has floods, fights, failures. There are monsters, mistakes, hauntings. The line-up includes brides, mothers, wives. Far-flung families, regimes, and punishments have to be accounted. And, like the Bible, there will be droughts and apocalypses. So, where is the love?

Love sits in your hand as you hold this book. Every page, every word, all the punctuation pulses with it. If someone asks me what’s and yet they were happy about, I’d tell them it’s about love. Real, true, scary, effed-up love. Here’s fight#2:

“He slams her face into a maple tree until the bark is imprinted on her skin. She becomes a maple tree. He taps her for syrup. She poisons her sap. He falls beside a stream. She becomes the stream. He vomits in the stream. She slaps his face. He feels rejuvenated by the water and goes to punish the tree. She becomes a honeybee and stings him. He yanks her wings off.”

If this isn’t exactly, crazily, what happens when well-married people fight, then I don’t know what’s what. There are four more paragraphs to this fight, each successively straining and morphing and, finally, exhausting the couple toward the last line:

“…Their hearts become strong, and marigolds pile up in the yard.”

I’ve been married a long time; lots of marigolds in our yard. Nice to visualize this past detritus as having nurtured a garden, fertilized by years of living together.

An important point: each of the stories in the novel is two pages long. That means, when you open the book, the two facing pages are the whole story. Depending on the number of words per paragraph, the whole story averages about five or six paragraphs. It’s really incredible how much story, love, and Life can fit into that small of a space.

Helen Phillips is a magician. She invokes fable and reality, a tiptoe through the tulips is followed by woods snaked with monsters. You go into the woods anyway, because the author has cast a spell on you. You will follow her words anywhere. Every word in these stories is chosen, crafted, polished. Every story makes an impact – there is an utterly brilliant and fantastical human universe being miniaturized across two pages, right before your very eyes. Open wide. Allow yourself to be swallowed up.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 4 readers
PUBLISHER: Leapfrog Press (May 17, 2011)
REVIEWER: Maggie Hill
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? YES! Start Reading Now!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Helen Phillips
EXTRAS: Huff Post interview with Helen Phillips
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: another uniquely written book:

Bibliography:


August 3, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Allegory/Fable, Short Stories, Unique Narrative, y Award Winning Author

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.