Reviewed by Pauline Masurel
These are disturbing
stories. A lost
child finds sanctuary inside a piano, infants are drowned and buried, a
baby-sitter disappears, a mother is kidnapped, a sister washes
compulsively, a child goes blind and a goat is sick. This collection
contains nineteen stories of childhood, which are full of dark,
dangerous and deadly events that return to haunt you long after
reading. There are no safe, saccharine fairy tale
endings. This is contemporary Brothers Grimm for adults.
These stories capture the intensities of experiences, both fleeting
insignificant moments in a life and momentous
are told in the first person, either by a child narrator or a damaged
or distressed adult. Losing,
Think is effectively a series of prose poems
relationship between a mother and her baby's (mostly) absent
father. In Looker,
father describes in painstaking detail what it felt like to be young
and passionate, the night of a child’s conception.
"Believe me her body was a safe
intersection without a blanket beneath
the trees thatching above us. Her body a picture of yellow
All was her hands rubbing my jeans her breath vanilla purest in the
inch behind her ear. Understand your mother was."
One of the most chillingly
terrifying stories is Why
Jimmy in which
a girl frees a
boy from a rooftop accident. Equally sinister is Camp Zoom from Halfway There,
which lots of little girls get invited to a film camp in the middle of
nowhere. Several months after reading I find that these
have stuck in the sediment of my mind, only to bubble up to the surface
when the silt is disturbed.
The love of language, the way words sound and play together is integral
to these stories. In The
Order, the narrator’s mother 'read books to
let me smell the pages.' That reverence for the sensations evoked by
words comes across very strongly in all of the writing. But
style of the stories does vary widely between those which read as
almost conventional plot-based tales to those which are more
impressionistic, poetic sweeps, conveying their meaning and emotions by
gradual accretion rather than in a strictly serial, chronological
manner. This gives a somewhat uneven texture to the
but conversely it provides a lot of variety as well.
Some of the stories effectively recreate an experience from childhood
by example. At the end of The
Only Child, I know what has supposedly happened before my
but I cannot be entirely sure of the meaning of what I have just seen -
like a child who observes adult behaviour but cannot effectively decode
it. You can judge the extraordinary nature of this effect for
yourself because the story is available online (see link below).
there is a tiny change to the ending used in the book, which to my mind
improves it and illustrates just how much difference a subtle shift of
wording can make to a story.
If The Floating Order sounds
"difficult" and off-putting then I am truly sorry to
suggest that but it would be foolish to imply the book is an "easy
read" throughout. If you are looking for
something light, airy and full of childish jollity, then this
collection will disappoint. If, however, you are in the mood
challenge and something tougher nerved then this book rewards the
In the title story, Erin Pringle writes "I save my babies in the
morning. The sky very blue that morning. Like tiny hands smearing
rivers down walls." This is what words can do. They
as very blue as the sky and, like tiny hands, smear rivers down walls.
"I will say that words are babies, you must correct their sins or the
evil takes over and they float away." Only you can save the
in the morning. Smell the pages. Read them too.
Read The Only Child from
collection in Barrelhouse
lives by a river in South West England. Words float past,
down, as she walks along the lane to weed other people’s
gardens. One day she will stop, net a few from the water,
them tight and plaster them, still-dripping, to the pages.
bio: Erin Pringle is
from Illinois. She teaches at Texas State University, where she
obtained an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in
numerous anthologies and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
with Erin Pringle
this book (used or
Publisher: Two Ravens Press
forget your local booksellers and independent book shops! Visit IndieBound.org to find an independent
you in the US
you liked this book you might also like....
Anne Phillips "Fast Lanes"
other reviewers thought: