Feeding Strays
 by Stefanie Freele

Lost Horse Press
2009 Paperback
First collection

Stefanie Freele was born and raised in Wisconsin.  She currently makes her home on a river in the Northwest US.   She holds an MFA in fiction from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts: Whidbey Writers Workshop in Washington.  She received the Kathy Fish Fellowship ‘Writer-in-Residence’ in 2008 and shortly thereafter joined the editorial staff of Smokelong Quarterly. In addition, she is the fiction editor of The Los Angeles Review.   She will be the 2010/2011 Healdsburg Literary Laureate.

Read an interview with Stefanie Freele



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"While Arlo’s parents argued, he levitated.  Seven months old, ready to put the world in his mouth, and eager to jingle everything, he focused in on Dad’s voice, then Mom’s while floating his head a few inches above the mattress."


Reviewed by Michelle Reale

It is obvious that not only is Stefanie Freele a writer with immense talent, but one who takes chances with her writing as well. Reading Freele’s collection is a bit like delving into a box of assorted chocolates - you are not quite sure what you’ll get, but know you’ll like it.

There are 51 (count ‘em!) stories of various lengths in this collection. Many have seen previous publication in journals such as American Literary Review, elimae, Smokelong Quarterly and Monkeybicycle, both in print and online. The one constant in Freele’s story is the level of writing: carefully crafted, finally honed and full of surprises and a gentle unfurling.

The stories in this collection are very much rooted in the quotidian, making them quiet kinds of stories, but where amazing, often magical and transformative things happen. But Freele does this in such a subtle way. While most (but not all) of Freele’s stories would be classified as "flash" fiction, there is nothing at all flashy about them - and this is a very good thing. I will tell you why: because they make you believe, when reason would tell you not too, but not being over the top. Even when a story veers in a magical realist realm, Freele takes you along gently.

In Arlo’s Big Head, one of my absolute favorites for an almost heartbreaking poignancy, Freele renders the story of a seven month old baby who levitates while his parents bicker, tenderly. In this story Arlo "raised both arms to go along with his floating head", "floated behind his mother’s back" and his big head even "led him to the kingdom of his Exersaucer." When he allows himself to be "kissed by his mother, his cheeks caressed by his father" you melt. When he utters, in all of his big-headed softness, simply, "Goo" the reader is emotionally done for. I have read and re-read this story so many times, because I believe it to be both flawlessly written and emotionally satisfying.

Parental preoccupations crop up with regularity, grounding the collection in something real and earthy. She renders pregnancy and the act of loving a child truthfully: that both are often fraught with bone level exhaustion and emotional fragility.

In a Glowing Pregnant Woman, a woman who is anything but, contemplates the act that got her pregnant in the first place and has a reaction that leaves her husband bewildered, to say the least. In the aptly titled She Tried Every Angle to Get Her Child to Sleep, She Gives Up & Scrubs the Shower, a mother’s shoulders "ache nicely from scrubbing." She yells to her toddler to make noise so that she can hear him while he entertains himself. What she finds when she is finished scouring the tub is not what one would expect.

Another favorite, Kalispell is all of 72 words, is a breathless, dreamlike incantation about staring out of a window in the night. There are so many other themes in the collection - Freele tackles a myriad of worlds in each of them, all the while hitting that bedrock of truth.




Read Arlos' Big Head from this collection in Smokelong Quarterly


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

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

Jody Lisberger "Remember Love"

Anne Donovan "Hieroglyphics"

Joan Aiken "The Serial Garden"

Shellie Zacharia "Now Playing"

Eva Tihanyi "Truth and Other Fictions
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Buy this book (used or new) from:

The Publisher's Website: Lost Horse Press

AbeBooks

Author's Recommended Bookseller: Stefanie Freele.com (signed copies)

Amazon 

BetterWorldBooks.Com

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If you liked this book you might also like....

Vanessa Gebbie "Words from a Glass Bubble"

Laura Van Der Berg "What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us" 

What other reviewers thought:

The Pedestal Magazine

Flash Fiction.Net

Mendocino Writer's Blog

Examiner.Com