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 by Shellie Zacharia

Keyhole Press 2009, Paperback
First collection? yES
Book website:

Shellie Zacharia lives in Gainesviile, Florida. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, Opium, Keyhole, The Pinch, Washington Square, Canteen, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, and elsewhere.

Read an interview with Shellie Zacharia

"When Suzy had her breakdown, she left her fiancÚ in the backyard tossing rye grass seed."

Reviewed by Michelle Reale

Shellie Zacharia’s fiction has a lot of "flash". They are packed full of bright, shiny and vivid detail. One of the hallmarks of Zacharia’s writing is her ability to hook you with the first sentence. This fact may seem like creative writing rule number one, but there is way too much fiction that meanders so much at the beginning the reader may give up before giving the story a chance.

Zacharia will often drop the reader right into the scene, but amazingly, it never feels disorienting. For instance, the story Request for Refund begins:

"I’m not sure why it’s necessary to fill out this form when at some places customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance."
Stitch begins:

"In the fourth grade, Ruthie Fowler got hit in the head with a baseball bat out on the PE field."

Here is my absolute favorite:

"The kids in Mrs. Ortega’s fifth grade class are making figurative language foldables when Lizzie Sharpe opens a pair of scissors in front of her face and announces ‘I’m going to cut off my nose.’"

Fun stuff, especially when the next line is "And she does."

The worlds that Zacharia creates are believably unbelievable in that there is the precise balance between often uproarious detail and authentic human response. Not all of the stories in Zacharia’s first collection are short ,short flash, though none are very long. One of the longest is the title story, beginning in what I , after reading so many of Zacharia’s stories over the years, consider to be her inimitable and wholly satisfying style:

"First, let me say this: I do not hate Jonathan Green anymore."

What follows is a rambling, funny rant by the unnamed narrator, a seemingly na´ve woman (a vegan!) who lives simply and works as theater critic for a local newspaper ,who attempts to review her ex-boyfriends new play Green Chronicles: Disco Time at the Electric Quilt Factory. The piece is both entertaining and poignant, as Zacharia weaves her bombastic details into a narrative that is both sad and funny in the end.

All in all the success of short fiction lies in the ability to tell a complete story in detail using half (or less) words than a short story of conventional length. Zacharia gets it. She hooks us, she entertains us, she wordpaints with a palette of colors we can "see" and "taste" and never tricks us with the ending. And I don’t know how she does it. I want to follow Shellie Zacharia around for a day. I want to see the car she drives, I want to eat what she eats, and I want to talk with her about how she does what she does. Because I really want to understand how a mind than can write a story titled Luckily, Lucy Sims Has No Stamps, that begins with "Dear Bed Bath and Beyond" works. I guess I can try and figure it out, but in the end , I just want to read Shellie stories and enjoy.

Read a story by this author in Storyglossia

Michelle Reale is an academic librarian on faculty at a university in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her fiction has been published in Verbsap, elimae, Eyeshot, Pank, Rumble, Apt, Pequin, Word Riot, Monkeybicycle and others. Her fiction chapbook, Natural Habitat, will be published by Burning River in the spring of 2010.

Michelle's other Short Reviews: Sana Krasikov "One More Year"

Jody Lisberger "Remember Love"

Anne Donovan "Hieroglyphics"

Joan Aiken "The Serial Garden"
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