Gale Massey, Rising and Other Stories (2021)

This is the ultimate (most cruel) test. Given that I’ve started reading this collection of short stories at the very end of August and finished it over a month ago, would I still remember them (all)? Or did they not stand the test of memory, eclipsed by fresher books? I love reading short stories but I detest writing about them, and in this case I procrastinated way too long…

The result is… yes, most of them are still fresh in my memory! (A little problem is that I don’t feel they have very memorable titles, but that’s editing, not writing: Gale Massey’s style is effective and evocative). I remember the story of the girl whose father has left during her early childhood because he was gay. She counted the time she was under her deeply religious father-in-law’s roof until she could get out of town. She enlists, finds some freedom but her stint in Iraq is cut short… I remember the story of the girl who lives in foster care where she somehow takes care of the younger girls. She thinks it’s a good idea to apply to a hostess job to get out of there but the place she gets to is a terrifying trap. I remember the title story, where a middle-aged woman, a depressed empty-nester, decides to fly solo to Peru. She wants to see a puma, an elusive and mythical animal, as if only the puma could give sense to her life. In the first story, a young daughter witnesses the rift between her father, a veteran whose best friend is a black man, and her racist mother who doesn’t see this friendship with a kind eye. I wondered when the story was supposed to take place, but I couldn’t get any clue if it was supposed to be present time or in the past. I remember many more stories, probably most of the 13 in the collection.

I’ve never been in the American Southeast, or in Florida where many stories are located. Still I feel that Gale Massey gave me a good impression of the land, especially the importance of water (sea or river) which is present even on the cover of the book. Many stories are dramatic, with young women confronted to tough choices or life-altering events. Most found a way to survive (but not all). I haven’t read anything else by Gale Massey, but I would gladly read more stories of hers.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. I received a free copy of this book for review consideration.

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