As I mentioned in an earlier review, for writers, long equals hard and short equals really hard. I’m always awed by writers who make short look easy, which is why I read all the short stories in the New Yorker Magazine, and why I wanted to read Sophie King’s short story collection,
“Tales from the Heart.” While the title is a bit bland, that’s the only real criticism I can offer. These 20 bite-sized stories are a perfect solution for a reader who has time for just a few pages. A warning, though – like certain brands of potato chips, you’ll find it impossible to stop at just one.
King’s writing style reminds me of O. Henry’s – there’s a twist in every story. Or, nearly every story. Most of King’s protagonists are heroines in similar circumstances – they’ve suffered losses in life or love; they’ve learned from their mistakes or are in the process of learning from them. They are surprisingly well developed for the length of the stories in which they star. Her topics are mostly domestic in nature, dealing with relationships between spouses and exes, parents and children, friends. They are specific, but the questions they ask and answer are universal: Did I do a good job raising my child? Did I make the right decision leaving my spouse? What will the rest of my life be like? Will I ever find love again?
I was sad when the collection ended, and not just because I still had 15 minutes left on the treadmill, not to mention the five-minute cool-down. But, bonus! In the e-book, King included the first two chapters of her novel, “Divorce for Beginners.” Those chapters were just as engaging as the short stories, and I look forward to seeing if King can create the same kind of magic in a longer work.
King makes short story writing seem easy, although I can assure you it’s not. Just like life as described by Forrest Gump’s mother, “Tales From the Heart” is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you might get. But it will be sweet.
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