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Migration Patterns

Gary Schanbacher

They stand there in the clearing night, close, neither sure what the next step might be, each alone in the memory of past losses, each considering what of themselves to risk in the future. "

Reviewed by Avis Hickman-Gibbs

The collection is all about moving on, and deals with migration in all its various guises: physical, emotional, geographic and spiritual. Overall it is a mixed bag, but kicks off with a powerful and satisfying trio of connected stories, beautifully paced and well crafted. They tell an extended story, and weave the whole from different points of view and time. 

Storms gives us a strong opening, and introduces us to Nash and the amoral Caitlin. The conflict between these two builds almost from page one, until Nash is shockingly forced to confront his dissatisfaction with how heís living his life. This pattern is reflected in the third story, A Fatherís Peace, and we discover Nashís history and his grief over events, past and future, which heís powerless to change. Although the second story, Garden in Drought, is more properly Nashís fatherís story, and is about coming to terms - with life, with neighbours and with pesky thieves - as Nashís father would probably say ďThe fruit donít fall far from the tree.Ē 

The Sea in These Hills is a three-stage story, but for me it is over long, and rambles on a little too much. That said, I found the first and last parts engage the reader, and take you with the hero on his long journey, and not just in geographical terms. You watch him grow up over a good many years. But I think it would definitely benefit from being broken up into the three stories proper. 

Herding Instinct and Laws of Gravity, are both beautifully detailed, but move the least. They are more of a meander, and while embracing the overall theme, for me, they are a little too drawn out. I feel they could really benefit from editing; severe editing. I have to say that I think these three are the weakest offerings but, even so, they are still very well written. 

But then we pick up pace with Windship Universe Floats to Earth, which provides some leavening to what is quite a serious mixture, and is amusing in a brown rice and mouse-that-roared kind of way. I didnít identify with the heroine at all, but thatís just me; that said, it did keep me reading - out of curiosity - and made me smile at the end. And though Fairweather, Colorado more than meets all the criteria for the book (Moving on, migrating etc) it feels Ö a little self conscious in construction, and formulaic in its delivery. But nevertheless, it still has great charm to it, so itís really not such a wooden peg! 

But for me, the collection ended as it began; with a strong, well structured gem - the marvellous Regaining Flight. This is a delightfully told tale of two love-battered people, circling their attraction to one another, while weighing up whether itís really worth starting out on another romance. It left me hoping they make it. It was nice to read that this story is also the authorís favourite from the collection. Maybe itíll be yours. Get yourself a copy and find out.

Avis Hickman-Gibb lives in Suffolk, England with her husband, one son and two cats. She gained a BSc. in Environmental Chemistry more years ago than she cares to admit, and worked in the fledgling computer industry whilst still a babe-in-arms. Sheís had stories in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, PygmyGiant, BackhandStories, Boston Literary Magazine, Short Humour, The Ranfurly Review StaticMovement, Microhorror, Bewildering Stories & The Shine Journal. Sheís currently working on a book of short stories and a novel but is addicted to writing flash fiction.

Avis' other Short Reviews: Alexei Sayle "Barcelona Plates"

Ian Daley (ed) "Bonne Route"   

PublisherFulcrum Publishing

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Author bio: Gary Schanbacher was raised amidst the rich storytelling tradition of southeastern Virginia. Educated at Randolph-Macon College and Old Dominion University, Schanbacher moved to Colorado to continue his graduate studies at the University of Colorado where he earned a PhD in economics and nurtured an emerging love of fly-fishing. During his career in industry and academics, Gary continued to pursue his literary interests. His stories have appeared in numerous journals, such as Colorado Review, South Dakota Review, and The William and Mary Review. He and his wife live in Littleton, Colorado. Migration Patterns is his first collection of short fiction.

Read an interview with Gary Schanbacher

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