Readers’ Corner, May 2022. Short Story Month

By Bonnie McCune & Kathleen Duhamel ~

Short stories offer the opportunity to sample a writer’s work without obligating you to devote lots of time. You can read a collection of one author’s stories or dip into a number of authors together in one volume. Nine Stories, by JD Salinger, is a book first treasured by many young people that they keep to skim regularly. Each story, as delicately constructed as a souffle, has all the literary assets of Salinger’s major works. “For Esme—With Love and Squalor,” a particular favorite draws upon the author’s experiences during WW II in England. A young girl’s gift helps a soldier recover from a nervous breakdown.

Some writers prefer short stories. This was true for reader favorite O. Henry. Collections of his work abound, and surely his best-known is The Gift of the Magi. A husband and wife each surrender a prized possession to buy a gift for the other, thereby depriving themselves of their favorite item. Another unforgettable tale, “The Ransom of Red Chief,” matches two petty criminals against the young son of a rich man, who defeats his kidnappers by driving them berserk. He’s so obnoxious the desperate men ultimately pay the boy’s father the ransom to take the boy back.

My Evil Mother. A woman growing up in 1950s Toronto looks back on her unusual relationship with her mother, who claimed to be a witch. With no husband or other means of support, how did she provide for herself and her daughter? What about those strange plants in the garden? Could she really cast a spell by pointing her finger? Only a skilled author like Margaret Atwood (The Handmaiden’s Tale) could weave such an appealing, humorous tale of multi-general relationships, told in the short story format. Her easy, down-to-earth style keeps the reader guessing while turning pages.

Author Kathleen Duhamel writes humorous contemporary romance featuring “seasoned” characters. Her newest is Fed Up. Author Bonnie McCune’s latest is Never Retreat, a suspenseful romance in Colorado’s wilderness.

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