Over the Pass, and Other Stories – Susan Mary Malone
I have fallen in love with short stories thanks to Over the Pass and Other Short Stories by Susan Mary Malone. Reading a book of short stories, to steal a very famous quote is “like a box of chocolates”, you never know what you’re going to get or if you’re going to like them all. Well, this book was a quality box of chocolates with 12 different centres. Each story standing on its own, with its own flavoured centre but covered in the same luxurious coating.
The first 3 stories involve the same characters Julie and Troy and are based in Montana. The scenario behind the Descent story was very similar to an experience I had with my daughter, and it brought back such vivid heart racing memories. I was back on that mountain again, running, worried, exhilarated. Living in a forested mountain region, ‘Over the Pass’, which is the story lending itself to the title of the book, was also personally relevant and the final feeling from Julie, which I totally empathised with:
“The rest of my heart broke off, as does a branch after fire has eaten the tree substance out. It fled to find its other heart half, back down that rutted road. I let it slide away, let it slip through opened, through grasping fingers. Let it go.”
The writing is wonderfully lyrical and poetic. Susan’s ability to capture such beautiful scenes is amazing. She unleashes the deep surreptitious thoughts that whisper in a relationship and expresses the detail of simple gestures that have such abstruse meaning. The blending of characterisation and setting is perfect, especially considering the length of each story where nothing in the narration feels sacrificed – an artist at work.
The other stories have different characters each dealing with a unique situation but each exploring human feelings, hopes, fears and desires. There is often a feeling of menace and foreboding in each story, which keeps us enthralled. Each story culminates in a moment in time, that watershed moment, that moment when our ambitions and goals collide with reality, deception or fate.
A highly recommended book of wonderful gems.