Sunday, September 8, 2013

"The Home Jar: Stories," by Nancy Zafris

Readers of “The Home Jar: Stories” (Switchgrass Books, 2013), by Nancy Zafris, are plunged into a dizzying variety of settings and strange stories. Although the stories are set in quiet, out of the way locales, there is always something unusual, a little bit dangerous, that simmers in the background and sometimes bursts into active menace. I have written here that I like stories that surprise me; these stories not only surprised but jolted me into an uneasy fascination. And yet the characters are understandable, and readers will feel concern and even compassion for them as they bravely, even stoically, get on with life, dealing with what has been dealt to them. And what characters! The sad, burnt-out chef with a secret. The small town mother haunted by the high-pitched sound she hears only in the town limits. The gifted wax museum artist who carries out a strange, sad task for a family. The curious, haunted flight attendant. The old woman who used to round up lepers and take them to a sanitarium for a living, and her long, vexed relationship with one of the patients. Yet no matter how removed the lives of these characters seem from those of the reader, there is a strong thread of connection, the thread of our shared humanity.

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