Review of "Counterpoint," a single story in a collection by Elizabeth Morris

Fiction seeks the truth. What underlies conflict? What values can we relate to and what are the risks? And how, really, does the world work? Short fiction does the same, with closely-observed details, effortless dialogue, and familiarity

It’s the little things that make a short story into a big story. It’s the details and the intimacy. It’s the skillful knowing of the characters: their courage, obstinacy, fears, and resilience. In these stories we meet Josephine in Pal Jo and Linda in It’s a Long Time Pull, both holding to optimism like drowning sailors to flotsam. Amory, the man being robbed in an elevator in To Sketch a Thief is surprisingly and enchantingly thrilled by the encounter. The three bad boys in Lights Out are frightened into goodness by the 1965 Northeast Blackout, and Hank, the bicyclist in Down, Down, Down, Into the Valley of the Snake is startled by loneliness into clinging to his marriage.

Elizabeth Morris’s characters are sometimes racist or lonely or fat or confused or awesome, but always complex and both intuitively and authentically imagined. They are easily believable.

Many of these stories take place on or near the water. A child pokes among rockweed to find periwinkles; a New England divorcee concentrates on a limpet’s slime trail; ocean swells roil against cliffs on a Russian island in the Arctic Ocean; and off the coast of an island in the Aleutians in rough seas, a birdwatcher keeps his hand clamped to the gunwale of a small aluminum skiff.

Morris, a long-distance sailor, knows the sea and knows when to keep the foreground of her stories in the front and the background astern.

A sweet though not overly complex story about loss, acceptance and new love.  Morris has a gift for making believable characters in a very short space of time.  This particular story is about a woman traveling to a special location to spread her husband's ashes.  Within just a few paragraphs I felt a connection to the widow, an impressive feat.

The characters were created so carefully I couldn't help but feel like more should have been done with them.  The story should have either been more concise (developing a single moment) or longer (developing her life and experiences further).  As it stands, it leaves the reader in some strange limbo between the two.

Still, a promising author to keep an eye on.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.


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