Expertly observed, Chloe Turner’s debut collection of short stories reads between the lines of life and explores how we love and lose, then find ourselves and others again.
From a hilarious yet uncomfortable child’s birthday party, to the meeting of two women who have loved the same man, to the horror of environmental catastrophe, all stories are told with a melancholic humour that packs a powerful punch.
An example of Turner’s excellent ability to find humour in a sad situation is cleverly explored in ‘Waiting for the Runners’ in which a mother waiting for her son to finish a cross-country race bumps into the woman who stole her husband. The stooge in the story is Mrs Harris, the PE teacher: ‘Mrs Harris’s Lycra thighs emerged from the shrubbery like purple hams’ brings brevity to the sadness, the reader having just learned that the narrator’s daughter had been killed by a car when only eleven years old. Turner does this very well. We feel the pain of each woman – of wife and mistress, of their discomfort and disconnectedness, and yet the story ends with a sigh, a release, that is positive and uplifting.
Such juxtaposition of emotions runs through all these stories, often taking the reader by surprise – and that is the magic of Turner’s writing. In the intriguingly titled ‘The House With Three Stories That Might Be Five’, an unusual but not implausible story unfolds, and this, like the others, has some beautiful observations casually dropped in to the narrative that make you catch your breath. Turner describes Cathy, a group member on a tour, succinctly with a simple line ‘I’ve been alone so long, sometimes I wonder if my reflection might leave me’, and you feel Cathy’s loneliness like a sting. And yet haven’t we all felt like that at some point in our life? The honesty in the writing cuts straight to the core of the story.
In ‘Show Me What You’re Made Of’, Turner takes a darker turn, leaving the reader wondering. Creepiness at its best.
There are similar themes running through many of these stories – nature, especially, features strongly, but so too do danger and menace, humour, and melancholy; many stories have a good helping of stoicism which shines a gentle and up-beat light on a human condition which Chloe Turner captures so well. Insightful, resonant, and emotionally touching in different ways, this collection of stories is well worth a read.
Jacci Gooding is busy on the live lit circuit in Leamington Spa and Warwick. Author and ex-editorial assistant, she can also be found in the summer months reading her short stories at The Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival and on the fringe at the Evesham Festival of Words. A Writers’ New competition winner and participant in Birmingham Rep’s Play in a Day. Self-published in both digital and paper format, her short stories can be found online as well as on her blog. When not writing fiction, she writes short articles for Mayhem! magazine.
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