Title: Sticky Fingers
Author: JT Lawrence
Genre: Short stories
Book procurement: Received a copy from the author for an honest review. Available on Amazon from the 28 July 2016.
Diverse, dark-humoured, and deliciously bite-sized, this compelling collection of 12 short stories by JT Lawrence include:
‘Escape’ — a story about about a suicidal baby who knows he was born into the wrong life, and has to get creative to take measures correct the mistake, much to his mother’s horror.
‘The Itch’ — a story about an intense, uncontrollable, unexplainable itch that lands the protagonist in a mental institution.
‘Bridge Gate’ — In this poignant and charming short story, a daughter yearns to connect with her absent father through the letters they exchange. She’s not put off by his pedantic corrections of her writing, despite the slow reveal that he is less than perfect himself.
‘The Unsuspecting Gold-digger’ — a woman gradually poisons her husband so that she doesn’t have to break his heart.
As a short story writer myself, I’ve got a soft spot for anthologies. There’s something unique and expectant in short stories that novels (unless they are sequels) do not have in their endings. You know you should expect some sort of cliff hanger and JT. Lawrence, in her short stories, executes it perfectly often enough.
I think to review each story would be a bit much, so instead I’ll pick out ones that stood out for me:
Escape: This suicidal-baby short just left me traumatized. Initially I was confused by the concern of the parents; the father thinks the baby is attempting to end their life and the mother thinks he’s exaggerating. And then both agree the child has a death wish. Perhaps some clarity? Other than that, the descriptions were vivid and clear. A clever use of words, and a prompting of the question that I’m sure many have asked: how aware/cognitive are babies really?
The Itch: Eeeuuwww. I think that’s a sufficient review? No? Okay… well imagine having an itch so intense it causes you to burrow through your skull? I think my only issue is that I still don’t know what caused the itch. And I’m starting to feel an itch in my head too…
Something Borrowed: I did not see that coming. Not one bit. Such a beautiful beginning. And then I saw that one point thrown in offhandedly. But nothing is random in short stories. It’s the wriggling worm and you’re the unsuspecting fish.
Pigeon Pair: Have you watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds? I find pigeons far more sinister. I got the creeps reading this.I’m convinced you will be too.
The Little Pink Book: One of my favourites. Because I honestly did not see that end coming. And so casual and sweet and unassuming. Midwife fears. Another great example of good writing.
Travelling Slacks: Fantastically written although I would never go so far with a “customer”. This short is written as the communication between a reviewer and the hotel where the person stayed. It’s funny. It’s incredulous. It’s just that good.
In terms of writing, JT Lawrence is spot on with most of her stories. I enjoyed reading through all of them; some just to figure out how they end and other’s because the writing was just that compelling. I did, however, find myself wondering if all the characters were the same as they bore the same sort of characteristics often. There was even a story where I was convinced the character was female (as most of them are) and was surprised when he wasn’t. And I’m still trying to figure out what “Off the Hinge” was all about. There was a good change up in perspective with stories like Bridge Gate (which doesn’t sound like a B&B at all haha), Travelling Slacks, and Pigeon Pair. Yet, whenever the stories were based in South Africa, I didn’t get a sense of “South Africa” in them. They still felt very “Western”.
The stories in the anthology have themes that I wouldn’t personally relate to, but that make for compelling stories nonetheless: weddings, children, marriage, infidelity (marriage and religious), child birth. At the end of it, the stories played on fears that I didn’t even think I had.
In overall this is great selection of short stories, and JT Lawrence is a fantastic writer. She draws you in, builds up the tension, and then leaves you dangling over the edge only to find the edge doesn’t exist after all. And the little covers for each story are gorgeous.
Rating: An enjoyable 4 out of 5