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Damaged Goods: Narrative Unendings from Inside My Heart and Mind

Deborah Bostock-Kelley

 
"And here I was standing in front of him looking like Christmas threw up."

Reviewed by Jason Makansi

Damaged Goods is a weakly "linked" collection in that every story bears a female narrator, point of view, or perspective on plot lines likely to appeal to women readers, usually the trajectories of present and former relationships as they appear from different stages of life. Although the situations and characters change in each story, the narrator, or main character, in each case seems pretty much the same type of person. Five of the six stories feature first person narration. The collection should appeal to readers who prefer their stories light and airy, easier to digest than lit fiction, lacking the visceral visuals of television pseudo drama, and with a long radius of space between the narrator or main female character and the rest of the author’s imagined world. In other words, the author does not venture too far from the central female character’s head.

The author’s hope, I believe, is that these stories might serve as a collective 'shoulder to cry on' for women readers. That is, other women readers would relate to these stories in wistful, nostalgic ways and perhaps see aspects of their own lives illuminated. That they will. And that, unfortunately, is the Achilles heel of the collection. Reality is, with rare exceptions, replicated rather than enhanced like raised Braille to the spoken word. This isn’t to suggest that these stories capture the author’s real life (I of course would have no idea about that), but that the characters and what happens to them, and what they think about, are as normal as reminiscing with a long-lost friend over a cup of coffee. Damaged Goods has plenty of one type of fiction--the writing of something that to the author’s knowledge didn’t happen or isn’t 'true.' True fiction - the bending and distorting of reality until you only recognize it as something different, and the process of discovery leaves you breathless — is not necessarily present here. And the latter may not have been the author’s intention.

Dead Dog is teen girl angst, little more, where even a classmate’s suicide, the one dramatic event, is treated almost as a normal daily occurrence. Wishful Thinking takes us a few years ahead to college and a possible fraternity rape through which a best male friend becomes the narrator’s patient savior and lover. Closure, a short imagined conversation and meet up with a former love interest, just ends in the strangest way and I’m not sure what it was all about. Reflections of a Marriage is suspected infidelity but does have a touching, if a tad sappy, ending. Emma’s Wings I am sure will appeal to any parent who has flown with a young child although it came across to me as lacking the emotional depth necessary for the event taking place.

One story, Live to Regret, comes the closest to challenging reality rather than holding it up limply to a mirror. A woman, Denise, is confronted by a stranger who 'gets in her space' and ultimately asks her, 'What was your one regret?' This sends Denise off on a parallel-path journey of the mind, a double helix of her 'real' life with her husband and children and an imagined life with her first love. I confess I was confused by the story but I’d rather be confused and challenged than bereft of new thoughts about the world.

If you are looking to share the mental space of a woman at various stages of her life as she ruminates on lives and loves, pick this collection up knowing you won’t have to think too hard. If more serious lit fiction is your bag, pick it up for Live to Regret and how in that story Ms Bostock Kelley begins to tear apart reality and put it back together again.

Jason Makansi  has published several poems and half a dozen short stories in a variety of literary journals, as well as one accepted by the Amazon Shorts Program and available at www.amazon.com/shorts for the low, low price of 49 cents (you read that right). He was accepted into, and recently participated in, the 2009 Sewanee Writer’s Conference. Makansi has also published three professional books and numerous works of non-fiction in the fields of engineering, energy, science, and economics.

Jason's other Short Reviews: Susie Bright (ed) "The Best of Best American Erotica"

Warren Adler "New York Echoes"

Frances Thimann "Cell and Other Stories"

Steven Coy (ed) "See You Next Tuesday: The Second Coming"

 

Publisher: The Write One

Publication Date: June 2009

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Author bio: Deborah Bostock-Kelley was born in Tampa, Florida, and spent her childhood, teen, and adulthood writing plays, short stories, song lyrics, and poetry. She still resides in her home town with her husband Ken and daughter Meghan.

Read an interview with Deborah Bostock-Kelley


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