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Michelle Ross’s debut short-story collection serves as an encyclopedia of modern relationships, taking special interest in those formed on unequal footing, pitting daughters against mothers, wives against husbands, friends against friends. Legacy looms large, as behaviors are passed from one generation to the next, and those entrusted with caring for the young or keeping others employed are found derelict in their duties. Weaknesses are exploited, ignorance is exposed, and bonds are occasionally dissolved. Regarding the human condition as it is portrayed throughout this collection, one character’s words echo prophetically: “You’re at the complete mercy of giants who don’t understand you.”
In spite of all this, Ross’s stories are ultimately tales of striving: to understand, to connect, to reclaim. Themes of discovery are woven tightly, as these individuals, rather than remain in the dark, are regularly drawn to the light that is missing from their lives. Optimism may not abound, but neither do these characters wallow. Time and time again, they evolve into agents of change within their own lives, even if they sometimes choose not to act.
In the end, such thematic depth gives rise to an astoundingly diverse array of voices, styles, and structures. No two entries in Ross’s collection are alike, and collectively they reveal the potential of the American short story, leaving little unsaid.