The power of the short story (after reading Mother Superior by Saleema Nawaz)

Mother Superior by Saleema Nawaz

Mother Superior by Saleema Nawaz

I have a soft spot for short stories. And why not? Written well, the short story is an unadulterated snapshot of someone’s life: you see characters in all their intense and glorious messiness. The subject of the snapshot might be crazy, eccentric or verging on pathetic – it’s usually a character whose shoes are SO gladly not your shoes to walk in. Catharsis at its best!

And short stories are too short to let you down hard. If a short story disappoints, you can easily forget it. If a 900 page novel is bad, you add up every minute spent reading it and curse the gods for that wasted time.

But the best aspect of short fiction is that it may be excellent as is, but it also has the potential to become an amazing novel.  Mother Superior is full of that potential. Read “The Republic of Rose Island” (pg. 143). It explains the very cool history of Rose Island to the backdrop o f two sisters’ romantic interludes – ending with very different outcomes, including one sister’s disappearance. There’s a lot of gritty potential in the collection, as shown by the fact that 5/9 of the stories have been published in really excellent literary journals.  And, in Nawaz’s case, the potential was fulfilled!  Her short story “Bloodlines” was the prototype for her recent novel Bone and Bread. Read it!

So, enjoy this collection – it’s awesome! And next time you are about to pass over another collection, remember: people don’t remember every moment from novels, but the best short stories really stick with us: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “Lamb to the Slaughter” or “The Hitchhiker” by Roald Dahl, “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury to name a few.

Never underestimate the power of the short story.

 

Libby

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Filed under Books, Canadian Books, Short Stories

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