Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review of "Against Her Fading Hour" by Isaac Sweeney

Summary:
Three heart-wrenching short stories.

In "Handi-Cure," Elisa is a widow looking for acceptance in the world. She tries to find it in men but, after an unusual experience in a nail salon, she makes personal changes.

“Urine Trouble Now” is about a young couple and their overly anxious cat. The cat pees on the floor, which brings up details about the couple's relationship.

In “Lemonade Nights,” after Marco's father dies, he burns down the backyard shed in a fit of rage. Feeling guilty, he decides to rebuild the shed. His wife, Emma, likes having a husband who is good with his hands, but soon feels lonely as Marco spends more and more time on his project.



Review:
This review is of Against Her Fading Hour, a three story collection by Sweeney. Warning: These reviews may contain spoilers.


As a whole, the collection is original, well edited and very well written. Sweeney has a genuine talent for writing dialogue and pacing his stories to keep the reader’s interest. For more specific feedback, I have chosen to review the stories in the collection individually, as I believe they each deserve their own time in the spotlight.


Against Her Fading Hour
The descriptions of the settings and the characters, in combination with the well crafted dialogue, bring this story to life. Sweeney paints a picture with just the right amount of detail, allowing the reader to connect almost instantly with the main character. I found myself drawn into her world and was only released from its spell when introduced to one of the minor characters, Melinda. She comes out swinging like a wildcat, then is portrayed as a frightened, defensive woman clinging to her husband. She lacks any genuine emotion, making her a cardboard character and detracting from what is essentially the climax of the story. I found myself disengaging from the scene and focusing on what kind of woman Melinda was supposed to be. However, as this is really my only complaint, I give this story 3.5/5 stars.


Urine Trouble Now
Despite being yet another example of Sweeney’s ability to write well, I didn’t see much point to this story. The protagonist’s situation with her husband was lamentable and had the potential to be highly relatable, but I found it hard to feel sorry for people who couldn’t even figure out how to handle a free-peeing cat. Find the cat a loving home somewhere else. Buy it kitty diapers. Do SOMETHING. I found myself wanting to give everyone involved a swift kick in the pants. I admit I am a fan of plot, so maybe this type of story just isn’t the one for me. In this case, Sweeney’s impressive writing skills and my weakness for all things feline were saving graces.  I give this story 2.5/5 stars.


Lemonade Nights
Okay. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the story starts out at a post-funeral gathering. However, it appears no one else is there. Where are the other guests? Perhaps the story should read, “After the others had left, Marco set fire to his father’s shed.” The fact Emma and Marco are at Marco’s mother’s house indicates the mother is still alive, so where is she as her son is burning her husband’s beloved shed to the ground? And are there no neighbors to report a giant, long burning ball of flame?

Matters of believability aside, the characters are well crafted and the author manages to introduce serious matters, such as death, the trials of marriage, our relationships with our parents and our relationships with ourselves, without becoming too heavy for the short story format. I am incredulous of Emma’s depth as a person. If my husband went off the deep-end emotionally, my biggest concern would not be the lack of sex. And as for Marco, if my wife was that obtuse, I might retreat to my backyard too.  However, the ending pulled things together and left the reader feeling satisfied. The image of the two misguided lovebirds spooning on the dusty floor was sweet enough it could have been gag-inducing, but Sweeney’s skill as a writer kept it to smile-inducing, with maybe a small chorus of “awww”s in the background. I give this story 3.5/5 stars.

Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet

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