Where the Dog Star Never Glows by Tara L. Masih, Press 53, LLC, 2010. Review by Debrah Lechner.
Tara L. Masih is a vivid, lyrical writer, and in this anthology of short stories, she applies that gift to a wide number of societies, natural settings, and wonderful, distinct, intriguing characters. Each story in this collection, which spans two decades of her work, stands alone as a piece worth the price of the book.
Some are primal in setting, such as the story “The Sin Eater,” which begins:
Most days, like this one, he lives like a snake coiled peacefully on a warm rock ledge down in the gorge, listening to the low grown of frogs and the high-pitched buzz of flying insects.
In this story Masih merges vengeance and redemption into a whole, one thing, both repelling and beautiful, a gestalt there is no word for in English. To articulate an experience for which there is no term is a pretty impressive accomplishment.
In the story “Asylum” the narrator is forced by circumstance to undertake a life-long quest to distinguish her identity and the meaning of her life from that of her mother, a schizophrenic woman that she cares for. Her isolation, dedication to her destiny, and the challenge she faces are no less harrowing than that of the snake-eater because of the modern and familiar setting:
You’d think with a name like Bliss that I had a good life, wouldn’t you? But I was named by my mother more from hope than intuition. She wanted me to have what she knew she would never have. She wanted to protect me in the only small, powerless way that she could.
Notice the word “hope” in that passage. Redemption in Masih’s stories come, as it does in most cases, in the form of hope. What I like most about the hope that she writes about is that it relies on a firm sense of self. There is nothing remotely resembling luck, answered prayer, or any other Deus-ex-machina: it is knowing who you are that promises salvation.
Tara L. Masih has earned numerous awards and nominations for her fiction. She is also the editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, which is also a book to consider acquiring.
Visit Tara L Masih’s website to learn more about her work and to read some of her flash fiction, poetry, and essays. You can also receive a free bookplate personally signed by the author! Just email your address. Be sure to purchase Where the Dog Star Never Glows for your personal library at Amazon.com, and while you are there, check out the five-star reviews from readers.