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October 10, 2020

Truthtelling by Lynne Sharon Schwartz ~ a review

by MK French

Truthtelling is a short story collection featuring New Yorkers “whose long-established routines are thwarted by a swerve of fate or a mishap or a time warp.” 
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

October 2020; Delphinium; 978-1883285920
ebook, print (224 pages); short stories
Our title story follows a young couple imagining their future together as they insist on only truth between them, with splices of said future woven into the narrative before they do another intense truth session when they’re old. It sets the tone for the collection, as there are choppy sentences hinting at speeding time and twists in perception before it slows down for the actual conversation, parts of it mirroring each other despite the years in between. The couple is comfortable with each other even when the sharp bits of their lives poke at their complacency, and then it settles into a new equilibrium.

In contrast, the next story, “I Want My Car,” features a couple in the middle of a divorce. Mona won’t return the car she borrowed from Ed and drags out her refusals. Ed is more invested in the car, his belongings, and his comfort than in her feelings, which drove him to leave in the first place. The narrator in “A Lapse Of Memory” is distraught about forgetting to contact her mother, which was an embedded routine, while Amanda in “The Golden Rule” reluctantly helps a needy older neighbor with problems that arise. Connections between people in these stories are tenuous, with an emptiness left in their wake as well.

While some stories have a melancholy air to the poor connections, “The Middle Child” really was heart wrenching. The narrator doesn’t recognize the girl living with her, her husband, and two daughters. There’s a vague sense of recognition, even though age wise the girl would be the middle child, and the narrator doesn’t even know the girl’s name. We discover why, and it’s a short but powerful piece. Mental illness also shows up in the next story, “Public Transit,” where the narrator deteriorates over time, going from unreasonably stubborn to outright psychotic on the train. Other stories feature philosophical thoughts, pondering relationships or grief, or even whether or not the hustle and bustle of everyday life is worth it.

There is such variation in these stories, and many will make you ponder whether the characters have the right of it, or if something is missing. They’re thought provoking and do give little insights, not only into their lives but into how they function within the greater New York City area.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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