Reviewed by Michelle Reale
Jody Lisberger’s debut collection is about love in all of its different forms. For so many, love may take the circuitous route, becoming something one must chase, hold onto, avoid, idealize or protect oneself from. Lisberger manages to hit on all of the different vagaries of love in these stories, and with an amazing amount of insight touches on the all-too-human aspect of a feeling that many feel should be magical, but often isn’t.
What so many of these stories exemplify is the stereotypical reactions that both male and females are subject to when love goes awry, and even if it doesn’t. But it usually does. In Crucible, a couple watch their daughter Julia’s debut in a school play which provides a poignant backdrop for the bitter drama of the end of their marriage. They are both unprepared for her brilliance onstage and her single-minded self-possession in acting out a situation she is scarcely old enough to truly know anything about:
In Bush Beating a husband doubts his wife’s gentle questioning of their son and his activities in a meadow with two of his friends. “Talk for both of us,” her husband tells her as they sit their son down. Both parents play a part though the stereotypical tables are turned, temporarily, as the mother pursues a line of questioning that makes everyone uneasy. In the end, the boy’s mother intuits the truth her son was shrewd enough to not actually admit to, and one that her husband was too ashamed to admit. “Does he think I don’t listen? Does he think I don’t see?”
In The Mercy of Water a teenage girl resists the urge to take a risky jump off of Simmons Bridge into the water, a lovely metaphor for the risk of love in general and same sex love in particular. It is particularly in stories like this where Lisberger shines, when the words on the page can be read into on several level.
This is an extremely even collection, quietly startling though not at all flashy. Lisberger uses an economy of words, though the ones she uses hit their mark. Lisberger’s characters are ones that people can easily relate to because they are finely drawn and flawed though hopeful. They find themselves in situations that are not only plausible, but exemplify the bonfire we all step into when we choose love. Or, when love chooses us.
Publisher: Fleur-de-Lis Press
Publication Date: 2008
Author bio: Jody Lisberger holds a PhD in English from Boston University as well as an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College. She is a faculty member at the University of Rhode Island and teaches in the Women’s Studies Progroam. As well, she holds a faculty position at the brief residency M.F.A. in Writing Program at Spalding Universtiy in Louisvile Kentucky. Her stories have been published in a variety of places, including Michigan Quarterly Review, Fugue, Confrontation, Thema, the Louisville Review and others.
Read an interview with Jody LIsberger
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