LIGHT LIFTING by Alexander MacLeod

The world that Alexander MacLeod’s protagonists inhabit is not an easygoing or a comfortable one, it is – a realistic one. Set in different urban milieus, most of his characters are young, struggling to get ahead in life. Some confront personal adversity, hoping for companionship or friendship, others attempt to find solace and even redemption. With his debut story collection MacLeod exhibits an exquisite writing talent that succeeds in capturing, with precision and depth, both the inner workings of the individual’s psyche and their social and physical circumstances. The back cover of the book describes the author – very aptly I find – as a writer of “ferocious physicality”.

May 29, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Canada, Short Stories


Margaret Drabble is a well-known English novelist. I have read several of her books and have always enjoyed them. I had no idea that she was also a writer of short stories. A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman is the first compilation of her stories that has ever been published. They are presented in chronological order beginning in 1964 and ending in 2000. Like her novels, these stories often deal with the plight of women in their times, the socio-cultural aspects of marriage, and the difficulties that women find themselves in while trying to both raise a family and be successful in the business world. The stories are distinctively English; the countryside of England as well as the urban landscapes are vivid throughout. There is a span of thirty-six years between the first short story and the last, giving the themes a relatively large period of time in which to develop.

May 26, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Short Stories, United Kingdom, World Lit

THE YEAR WE LEFT HOME by Jean Thompson

Jean Thompson has been aptly labeled “an American Alice Munro,” and as a reader who has been mesmerized time and again by her captivating short-story collections, I wholeheartedly concur.

Now, in THE YEAR WE LEFT HOME, Ms. Thompson leverages all her strengths and skills as a short-story writer and creates a sweeping and emotionally satisfying novel composed of interlocking, decade-spanning stories of a family in flux. As her grand theme, she takes on the universal quest for “home,” exploring all the manifestations of that search.

May 5, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, US Midwest


THE COFFINS OF LITTLE HOPE by Timothy Schaffert is a small gem. Its multi-plotted story takes place in a small Nebraska town with characters who make this novel special. The town is peopled by a lot of old folks. Essie, the protagonist, is 83 and the novel is told in first person from her point of view. “We were all of us quite old, we death merchants – the town’s undertaker (seventy-eight), his organist (sixty-seven)…the florist (her freezer overgrown with lilies, eighty-one). The cemetery’s caretaker, who procured for the goth high schoolers who partied among the tombstones, was the enfant terrible among us (at an immature fifty-six.”

May 1, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide, US Midwest


We read for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons frequently cited is that books offer an “escape.” How true that is, and books, of course, offer a variety of escapes. There’s the thrill of adventure and romance, and the infinite worlds of science fiction. But there’s another escape too–an escape into a simpler, cozier world in which, if the truth is told, the lives of some fictional characters seem enviable. And this brings me to Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series.

April 1, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Humorous, Sleuths Series, United Kingdom

SING THEM HOME by Stephanie Kallos

This is a saga, a sweeping family story that lodges in your marrow, the kind of story that makes you smile, laugh, weep, snort, chortle, sing, spread your arms wide and lay your heart wide open.

With flavors tender, ribald, ironical, farcical, tragic, magical, and wondrous, Sing Them Home narrates an epic story of a family emotionally disrupted by the disappearance of their mother (and wife), Hope, in a Nebraska tornado of 1978. Hope was swept up, along with her Singer sewing machine and a Steinway piano, but she never came down. Due to the absence of her remains, all that stands in the graveyard is her cenotaph.

March 27, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters, Literary, Reading Guide, US Midwest