|Ms. Hen eats breakfast and reads EGG HEAVEN|
Shade Mountain Press
Ms. Hen decided to buy this book because it is about diners in Southern California. Ms. Hen enjoys reading fiction about people at work, especially customer service jobs, because it creates conflict in unique ways. She liked that the title has to do with eggs, since she is a hen and can appreciate stories scattered with her products.
And is this book full of eggs! A lot of the short stories in this collection mention eggs in one form or another; mostly characters are eating the eggs, cooked different ways, from sunny side up to scrambled eggs with chorizo.
These short stories are like peeking into the windows of other people’s lives, a brief flash of what it is like to live in Long Beach California where the sun shines, but sadness and desperation is found everywhere, in diners, the beach and dirty motel rooms. Ms. Hen felt for these characters.
Ms. Hen was reminded of the novella THE LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER by Stewart O’Nan, a book about the last shift at a Red Lobster and the employees having to deal with the shutdown. It also reminded Ms. Hen of Raymond Carver’s stories, which is no surprise because Robin Parks won the Raymond Carver Short Story Award. The hopelessness of the characters and the dire situations in these stories echo Carver.
Some of the standout stories in this collection are “Los Golondrinas,” and “Egg Heaven.” In “Los Golondrinas,” a waitress gets fed up with her family and goes on vacations by herself. Her husband and daughter go away on a trip of their own. The daughter shows up in a different story, but much older. In “Egg Heaven,” a Vietnam Vet has a crush on a waitress, and sketches pictures of her. He doesn’t know about her troubles, and she doesn’t know his.
Right before she read EGG HEAVEN, Ms. Hen read THE LONG NIGHT OF WHITE CHICKENS, which is an expansive novel, full of rich characters that the reader gets to know very well. This book is the complete opposite, it is full of moments in the character’s lives, and these moments don’t take up much space, but have deep meaning. Ms. Hen found it hard to situate herself into reading short stories after such a large novel. It’s not to say that she didn’t like it, but what she reads sometimes affects the next book she reads.
Ms. Hen wishes there was a way she could clear her head after reading such a large book, so she can read short stories or other books with ease. She wants something like a cracker at a wine tasting, given to clear one’s pallet, so the next taste can be distinct in one’s mouth. The problem is that sometimes a book can linger in our mind after we finish it.
Ms. Hen thought that these short stories were beautiful and sad in a way that surprised her. She didn’t know what to expect from this collection, but there is a tenderness and empathy that only a writer with great sensitivity can accomplish. Ms. Hen gives EGG HEAVEN five feathers up.