curls its claw-like fingers around her throat.
Reviewed by Jason Makansi
"There are no distortions in the mirror facing the world of Lisa Wardle’s Reflections.
Predators lurk on beaches, in homes, and under the characters’ own
skin. Both strangers and family members are kept at more than an arm’s
length…" Whether these words, from the back flap describing the
collection, appeal to you as a reader or not, they promise the grit and
gravel of life.
Indeed, if happy families are the same, unhappy ones unhappy
in their own way (to paraphrase the famous opening line of Anna
Karenina), then there are also no happy characters in Reflections.
Or at least not enough that I noticed. These are stories about women,
mothers and daughters, women who smoke, curse, smell, dress poorly,
yell, and lie, women behaving badly but usually for good reasons, or at
least understandable ones, because they often have had bad things
happen to them. You have to like the darker complexions of the female
psyche to get into these stories, because each one comes at you like
individual cars in a freight train rushing past you.
At some point, however, I lost it in the cacophony of the
engine, the screech of steel on steel, and the displacement of air by
train cars. It was too much, not enough depth, like watching coal car
after coal car. The back cover states that these stories will "awaken
the reader." To what, I asked? That these types of people, or their
thoughts, exist? I wasn’t elevated beyond what I know from real life.
Stories don’t need happy characters, but characters are often enhanced
Interestingly, few of these stories really end. The "endings"
beg the question, what next? There’s no resolution or wrap up. In this
way, they read like a chapter for a novel rather than stories in
classic short form. Perhaps the best example is the last story of the
The last line is "I climbed out onto the ledge." If that isn’t begging
for a, "did she or didn’t she [jump, light a cigarette, come back in,
etc]?" I don’t know what is. The second to last story, Bounded by Tears,
ends with, "‘Damn it, Michael!’ She snatches the glass from his hand."
I wanted her to throw it at him, throw the glass at the wall, break it
over her head, or something. It is as if these stories end in
mid-frame, as if the film reel broke or got stuck in the camera.
Endings don’t have to be tidy, but they do need to give some measure of
These ten stories, over seventy six pages, are about negative
behaviors, derived from nature or nurture. Some border on shocking.
Some will remind you of fairy tale characters, like wicked aunts and
mother-in-laws. Some, unfortunately, will remind you of women you
already know all too well, the ones down the street, across the tracks,
in the next town, or at the other end of the bar. If you like your
fiction painted by the underbelly of the female psyche and experience
in a "bring it on" kind of way, this collection is for you.