The Roaring Girl: Storiesby Greg Hollingshead
In the title story, an eight-year-old boy's life is transformed when his parents take in an adolescent drifter. She stays in the basement and works at his father's service station, and she is as tough and unreachable as the boy is sensitive and vulnerable. She curses, she lies, she fixes cars, and she eventually steals from the cash register and runs off with the… See more details below
In the title story, an eight-year-old boy's life is transformed when his parents take in an adolescent drifter. She stays in the basement and works at his father's service station, and she is as tough and unreachable as the boy is sensitive and vulnerable. She curses, she lies, she fixes cars, and she eventually steals from the cash register and runs off with the middle-aged alcoholic mechanic. To the boy, though, she is mysterious and beautiful, straddling the grown-up world and his own. Her presence inspires in him a constant longing that he can't articulate but that Hollingshead describes with unaffected sympathy. In other stories, a teenager glimpses, inexplicably, a naked man in his parents' house; a young writer attempts to confront an abusive nurse as he wrestles with his (drug-induced and natural) indecisiveness; a housewife is denounced for giving away a box of mysterious medical supplies intended for the Sudan and tries desperately to get it back. Hollingshead's tales are populated by genuine, sincere people who feel out of step in their worlds, who struggle to maintain order, to connect with their families and peers, whose interactions are startling and comical, moving and pathetic.
Immediately striking about Hollingshead (author of three story collections and a novel in Canada) is the gravity of his voice, which is authorial and strong even in its comic mode. The narration is unambiguous and sharp throughout this collection, even when the narratoras is often the casehasn't the first clue as to what's really going on around him. Thus, the homeowner protagonist of "The Side of the Elements" who sublets his house for a year and returns to find strangers holding a wake in his living room, can manage to be poised and philosophical in the midst of his confusion. The writer-in-residence of "Rose Cottage" is even more unflappable: After trying to come to the aid of a wealthy elderly lady whom he suspects of being beaten by her nurse, he finds himself passively succumbing to the advances of her middle-aged son. There is a tendency toward bizarre revelations among many of Hollingshead's characters. The real estate man of "The Appraisal" who comes to look at a house, take pictures and check the plumbing, talks like a character out of the Book of Revelations ("Maybe last year you could get more. Now nothing is selling. The West has entered a long economic as well as moral decline"). And the sleazy landlord of "How Happy They Were," who guts his buildings, exploits his tenants, and blithely steals an exchange student's girlfriend, turns out to be a member of an exotic cult.
Wild, weird, and wonderful: Hollingshead has perfectly fitted his voice to his subject and crafted these tales with astonishing skill.
- Somerville House, USA
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