If I Loved You I Would Tell You This
by Robin Black
Winner, Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award; shortlisted, 2010
Cork-City Frank O'COnnor International Short Story Prize; longlisted,
2010 Story Prize
not a level playing field. My foes do not play fair. Death and all of
its traveling companions and close associates, all of those beings who
sneaked into my house, camouflaged in the chaos that surrounded Joe’s
swift disease. Loss and grief. Reality itself. And always, with me,
since, this horrible heightened awareness of impeding abandonment. "
Reviewed by Michelle Reale
Black’s first collection of short stories is a tour de force.
Eschewing glitz and over the top attention-getters that seem to be
the hook for so many collections these days, Black writes in a
uniquely quiet and brooding way about quotidian lives’ and the
fires that often scorch and burn them. Those "fires" often start
small. They may smolder, flare or roar full blown, but Black’s
prose always reveals in an even tone, making the juxtaposition of the
events she portrays all the more searing and poignant.
daughter left behind in London, a soccer mom with a wooden leg, a
woman who wants to immortalize her mentally declining husband in a
portrait, and a visiting daughter, who carries on an inscrutable
affair in the house of her elderly parents, create worlds in which
every nuance is not only rings true because you can truly imagine it
happening, but because Black word-paints her stories in such a way
that you can see, in your gaping mind's eye, every gesture, all
told in Black’s inimitable, subtle way.
the title story, the narrator, a married woman, addresses her
inconsiderate neighbor about the both real and imagined situations
that she hopes will exemplify his inconsiderate decision to erect a
wooden fence along his recently surveyed property line. "If I
loved you, I would tell you this," as a first line is a brilliant
and heartbreaking setup to a gripping story of how, no matter how
life seemingly drains away amidst the grim realities of brain damage
and cancer, the day to day irritations provide an odd respite for the
Harriet Elliot the new girl in school, set apart by her manner
of dress and the unlikely story of her kidnapping in Italy as a baby,
is hell bent on revenge, fuelled by her own real or imaginary memory
of a harrowing ordeal separating her from her parents.
is a poignant look at where we find happiness as two women make each other’s acquaintance at their daughters' soccer game.
One woman cannot break free from the grief that has a stronghold on
her since her husband’s death three years before, and wonders at
the tranquility of the other woman who lost her leg to cancer at 16.
Table Vivant a daughter’s visit is the catalyst for a
woman’s reflection of her life as her older husband’s caretaker.
It becomes painfully obvious to the woman what the real reason for
her daughter’s visit is while at the same time she wonders at the
choices we all make and are forced to live with throughout our
things that push us together are often the same things that tear us
apart. These are some of the predominant themes that populate this
incredibly gripping first collection. These stories are rendered in
near flawless prose, and are, by turns, sad and dark, but in the
author’s deft hands, there are glimmers of bright light she lets