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Review of Starting Over: Stories
on December 23, 2013
It says something when an author can boast that they have been writing for seven decades. Seven, folks. Elizabeth Spencer creates a nearly perfect set of short stories with Starting Over: Stories. Some of these stories broke my heart, moved me to tears, and made me put the book down out of sheer self-preservation. I’m a fairly recent convert to the power of the short story (by recent, I mean within the last few years) so for a collection to move me as deeply as some of these stories moved me…well, let me just say that it doesn’t happen as often as I like. Had I read a collection like this during my years of “not-a-fan of short stories,” I think I may have had a come to Jesus moment a little sooner.
There are quite a few solid stories in Spencer’s collection, but I want to talk the most about a particular story. ”Sightings” is a story about a young girl who has come to visit a father who she has partially blinded. During her time with her father, very little comes out. Actually, very little comes out in the entire story. However, Spencer uses tension and some really deft writing to make her reader understand what is fully going on here.
Spencer’s grasp on the intricacies of writing from different viewpoints and of portraying each character in a way that is true to not only themselves in the story, but transcends the story to read life, is something that should be marveled at. During “Sightings,” I felt like I was there, in the story. It was a shock to see it come to an end because I had become so invested in such a short time period. This story alone makes the collection worth owning – but don’t let me talking about just one story convince you that there aren’t also other worthy stories inside.
I think this book is one that would appeal to both the short-story lover and the reader who just wants to finally “get” what short-stories are about. Spencer writes in such a way that I never felt as if the portraits were over my head and I found myself often making friends within the few pages allotted to each story. Starting Over: Stories is definitely one to be watching for.