All The Roads That Lead From Home
  by Anne Leigh Parrish

Press 53, 2011
First Collection

Awards: Surrogate, from this collection, won first place in The Pinch’s 2008 Literary Award. All the Roads that Lead from Home, the title story of this collection, was awarded First Place in American Short Fiction’s 2007 contest.

"In a year, or five or ten, they might mention the diary and say it was Ted's flight of fancy, an expression of true creative genius, or they might call it something else they can't imagine now. Because when he declared those things to her under the stars above the lake, he didn't know that Joshua would one day write them in his diary. And the day she saw Jimi Hendrix at the airport, Nina didn't know that she would later say Ruth saw him first and then begged for the autograph when Nina did both, because Ruth died alone, unable to reach home, and Nina didn't. "

Reviewed by Carol Reid

The statue was really a lawn ornament, a crude Madonna, between three and four feet tall.
The opening lines of Surrogate strike me as a neat demonstration of Anne Leigh Parrish's particular accomplishment in this collection. She creates a world in which characters and circumstances remain what they are but through consistently applied scrapes and trauma, crudeness erodes into beauty.

Surrogate depicts a woman's slow journey through grief after a failed pregnancy. Her loss has made her "too lazy to live" as her husband says, until an innocent accident caused by her tenant's neglected daughter illustrates that she has clung to her hollowness as if it were a child itself. There is no great drama or parting of the storm clouds here, just a simple decision to go on and risk more pain, to try again.

These stories are loosely linked by a thread of place. The town of Dunston is a roughly sketched presence, its most memorable feature a gorge where leapers regularly nosedive, prodded by tedium, misery, shame or whatever emotional force becomes irresistible. Dunston is a university town, and in The Fall a misfit student's mental collapse is charted with harrowing precision. This is a beautifully paced story which leads inevitably to the bridge but manages to deny its call in a moment of surprisingly believable transcendence.
Then the light rose enough so that an icicle hanging from a dark ledge of shale was illuminated. It seemed to glow. Kirsten had never seen anything so beautiful. She didn't understand how the light had reached the ice before falling on anything else. Soon other icicles were coming to life, turning a faint, warm yellow.
Several of Parrish's characters have made justified tracks from Dunston but, as in Snow Angels, are compelled to return and re-process the intricate cruelties of family life. Its protagonist, Cory, displays her pain in her own tattoos and in her profession as a tattoo artist. This story's portrait of a sibling relationship is both mind-and- gut-twisting.
She'd used it growing up, a power she had over him. Tell me this and I'll show you that. What she'd wanted to know was always about their father, what he'd said about her, what he'd do next where she was concerned. What she got for her trouble were things like he loves me better and he says I'm a lot smarter than you, pain she left on the bodies she marked for life and in the ears of the young men who shared her bed before Vic came along.
As it turns out, rough-spoken, uncomplicated Vic could well be the snow angel of the piece and his open loyalty to Cory her saving grace.

Pinny and the Fat Girl impressed me as one of the most genuine stories of teenage friendship I've read in some time. These two girls have few or none of the assets that help ease the journey through adolescence and they don't escape unscathed, by any means. Predictably and realistically enough, a boy comes between them, a situation which is resolved in a way that truly made me laugh and touched my heart. Despite their setbacks, the girls are tough, resourceful and ultimately so decent that as a reader I felt fortunate to have met them.

Each story in this collection presents a solitary journey, but the journey runs through a peopled landscape which offers slivers of comfort and hope. Parrish allows the reader to believe in the power of human connection in the face of all our troubles and flaws.


Read a story from this collection on The Writing Site

This spring, Carol Reid will be road-tripping to her heart’s content throughout the American Southwest. Stories to follow.

Carol's other Short Reviews: "Crimini: The Bitter Lemon Book of Italian Crime Fiction"

"Passport to Crime: The Finest Mystery Stories from International Writers"

Richard Matheson "Button, Button: Uncanny Stories"

Andrew Porter "The Theory of Light and Matter"

Fran Friel "Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales"

Kathy Page "As In Music"

Christopher Fowler "Old Devil Moon"

"Home of the Brave" edited by Jeffery Hess

Tom Lee "Greenfly"

Jack Swenson "Hello Walls"

Ron McLean "Why the Long Face?"

Marcel Jolley "Neither Here Nor There
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Anne Leigh Parrish is a native of upstate New York but has made Seattle, Washington home for almost thirty years. Her short stories have won numerous honors and awards, and have appeared or are forthcoming in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Clackamas Literary Review, American Short Fiction, The Pinch, Eclectica Magazine, Prime Number, Storyglossia, PANK, Bluestem, r.kv.r.y., and many other publications.

Read an interview with Anne Leigh Parrish