It’s been awhile since I’ve really LOVED a short story collection, but I can finally say that The Dead Husband Project by Sarah Meehan Sirk is definitely one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Each piece in this collection is strong and emotionally affecting, but there are a few that really stood out for me because they included that pivotal point that forced me to exhale without realizing I was holding my breath in the first place.
“Ozk” is one of my favourites, it’s about a woman named Margaret who grew up with a single mother who although incredibly intelligent, lacked any sort of maternal or social gene. Margaret recounts a childhood of eating dinners by herself, reading to pass the time and staring at the closed door of her mother’s office. She isn’t a cruel or ignorant parent, she simply doesn’t realize how little she gives to others as she fanatically works on a mathematical formula to explain a new colour she claims to have discovered. The very last line of this story literally took my breath away as it illuminates the entire narration before it.
“Barbados” is another one I loved. It tells the story of a young couple dealing with a bout of infidelity, then becoming pregnant soon after (if this sounds unbelievable I can guarantee you it’s not, I have more than a few friends who have found themselves in this same position!). Anyway, the young mother gets a devastating phone call from the man she has her dalliance with as he has a duty to tell her he has tested positive for something (presumably AIDS, based on the reactions of characters in the rest of the book). So now, there’s a chance she, her husband or her baby may be HIV positive. She is awaiting the results of the blood tests while her and her husband are vacationing in Barbados with their newborn. Not only is this a unique situation I found myself guiltily fascinated by, but the dialogue and tension within the marriage rings true to anyone in a long-term relationship. Throw in a dash of sleep deprivation that all new parents experience, and the plot is so thick you could cut it with a knife-all against a beautiful tropical backdrop.
I wasn’t in love with every single story, simply because some of them were difficult to understand, but I enjoyed reading them nonetheless because I was continually amazed at how unique each piece was. “The Date” is about a blind date gone awry as it turns into a reality game show that both the man and woman don’t understand or want to comply with. “What Happens” is about a young girl dealing with a tragedy in her family, although I found it too short to have as much impact as the other stories. As you can probably tell there are many heavy topics found within these 247 pages, but each is dealt with compassion and realism so I never once felt the plots were gimmicky or overwrought.
Hopefully I’ve given you enough reasons to pick up this book, but if none of these stories sound interesting to you, at least give the cover a good look before you make your final decision-isn’t it gorgeous? The thoughtful design continues well into the inner workings of the book; I included a picture of the snail from the title page to demonstrate how much care was taken in the production. For that reason alone you need to make this the newest addition to your bookshelf.
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