The Persistence of Memory and Other Stories
Dog Hollow Press
Ms. Hen decided to read this book because she heard the author do a reading from it at an event she attending (on Zoom), the annual book party given by the National Writers Union Boston chapter, of which Ms. Hen is a member. She often goes to literary events, and sometimes when she is inspired enough by an author's reading, she buys the book. Ms. Hen was not disappointed this time.
This collection is full of stories that contain a whimsical air, but are true to life. The first story in the collection, "A Real Prince," is a fairy tale, and not like the others in the book. Yanka is a servant in a place like a castle, but she is mute. She stokes the fire, and helps the people prepare for the soldiers that are coming, and when they come, they are taken care of, and Yanka has a conversation with one that moves her. Ms. Hen enjoyed this story because of the possibilities that it possessed; it doesn't have an ending, but only another beginning.
A lot of these stories are about elderly people, which Ms. Hen thinks is different, because she doesn't read a lot of stories about characters like these. The last story in the book, the title story, is about a woman about to turn one hundred whose son decides to take her license away, but she decides to borrow her granddaughter's bike and goes on an adventure. The story is about memory, and her remembering her father teaching her how to ride a bike.
These stories, in the hands of a more morbid author, could go to darker places . There is a light and optimism to these brief slices of life, and after reading each story, Ms. Hen felt better about the world around her. Everything can seem dark and dreary at times, but she thinks that these stories show how life can be hopeful even when it seems like there's no hope.
Ms. Hen could feel echoes of Raymond Carver in these stories, but she doesn't remember him writing about elderly people. And Grace Paley shines through also, with her wisdom and wit.
A lot of the time, when Ms. Hen reads a book, the essence of the last book she read carries through to the next. That didn't happen this time, and Ms. Hen thought this collection was the perfect spring breeze to remedy her last book. Not that she didn't enjoy her last book, but it was heavy. The March air has taken hold, and THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY is the perfect quick read to help get Ms. Hen ready for longer days, birdsong in the morning, and hope that everything will be okay again soon.