Who would know, when we found the chest in England, that it would become a haphazard postal system between a mother and a daughter?
The chest smells like my mother. It’s the smell of Ponds Cold Cream–unguents of the fifties and sixties. I put the chest in the living room, and it stays there like a heartbeat.
(from “The Post Box” in Enchantment, page 202 in the advance galley; finished version may be different)
I loved Thaisa Frank’s unique Holocaust novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, so I couldn’t wait to read her new short story collection, Enchantment. There are 30 or so stories in this book, some as short as two pages. I found something to like in each of them, mainly Frank’s ability to convey so much about her characters in so few words. I enjoy her writing style, so even when a certain story didn’t grab me, I never felt the desire to stop reading.
A few of the stories in Enchantment really stood out to me, especially “The White Coat,” which is the tale of a women in a troubled marriage who wants to be invisible and the World War II-era ermine coat with which she is fascinated. A handful of the stories have a supernatural element to them, like “The Loneliness of the Midwestern Vampire,” “The Dungeon Master’s Mother,” and “The Girl with Feet That Could See,” the latter about a young girl forced by her mother to perform in a circus freak show.
All of the stories have a heaviness to them, as most deal with troubled relationships or grieving individuals. The characters are depressed or depressing, far from any kind of happy place. In “The Silk Velvet Blouse,” for instance, a woman is in the hospital after a car accident in which she killed someone, and while she is understandably upset, the doctors and nurses around her are too accustomed to death and their role in it.
Although I enjoyed Frank’s writing and appreciated the originality and complexity of her stories and characters, there were a number of stories that left me confused or unsettled. I probably missed some profound messages in them, but they felt unfinished to me. I’d find myself really involved in a story, with no idea where it was going, and then it would just end.
Even so, Enchantment is an interesting collection of short stories worth checking out for the characters and the writing. Some of the characters are so unusual and so real that they could provide enough material for a novel. I’m sure I’d get more out of the stories with a second reading, so you’ll want to take your time with these.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.