Children invent a nursery rhyme to make sense of their fate.
A band of girls rot from the outside in.
These characters stumble through joy and murder and confusion, only to survive and wait for the next catastrophe to arrive. Moments so brief and disturbing you can’t afford to look away.
Jac Jemc’s affecting stories mine the territory between what is real and the stories we tell to create understanding.” ~ Goodreads
A Different Bed Every Time (October 2014) by Jac Jemc is a different kind of collection of short stories.The writing is stylistically complex and Jemc uses wordplay to entertain her readers. A LOT of wordplay.
I would say that many of these stories (over 40) read more like poems in under 200 pages. The tales cover many topics using wit and startling prose chalk full of metaphors and language strung together that had me scratching my head at times. The main thread is the subject of familial relationships with touches of magical realism. The whole collection is quite dense in scope.
But I love short stories. I love a snippet into an author’s psyche to create these characters for a few pages and then leave them, lingering out there. I don’t need tidy, neat writing or endings that wrap up happily. I have suggested many short story collections over the years and unfortunately the reception wasn’t as positive. To each their reading own. I suggest that if you like this sort of genre to pick up and read it s-l-o-w-l-y. Savor each one and maybe even go back and re-read what you missed. Even if you only find a handful that you can relate to, it’s worth the effort. I’ll leave you with this powerful quote from one titled “The Dark Spot” where a character returns home for the holidays and gets stuck in a feeling of nostalgia but with a different mind set. It really struck a chord with me. Sorry, I know the holidays are a time for joy and happiness but I thought for some readers with less than stellar “Norman Rockwell” experiences, they would appreciate this as much as I did.
“From the feeling that everyone was supposed to live more on holidays, pack a year’s worth of a relationship into several days, feel all the love and hate in quick succession…
I had tried to turn the weekend into a science, to make it into a game I could learn the rules for, to escape the cliche of it being difficult to be home for the holidays. If you asked me who I loved most in the world, the people I would list were under that roof, but spending four days with their adult selves, with the spouses they’d chosen and the children they’d wrought and the opinions they’d formed where curiosity had once lived, was more than I could manage…
There are times when I know I’m part of something, even when I’m not actively adding to that thing. Like the dim spot on a fluorescent sign, I can feel the other sections buzzing around me, and I know people can make sense of the words, because the light of the working part is enough. They can fill in that dark gap and they know what should be there.
And sometimes the hardest thing is to be recognized as a part of something that I know I had nothing to do with, no matter how much I wish I did.”
*Thank you to Edelweiss for the ARC. I was not required to review this piece, nor was I compensated in any way.