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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review: The Innocent Party by Aimee Parkison

TheInnocent Party, by Aimee Parkison.
BOA Editions, Ltd., 2012.
Short Story Collection.
Reviewed by Debrah Lechner

The work in this volume by Aimee Parkison could be classified as imaginative realism, and while one of the pleasures of her writing is that it transcends categorization, these stories overwhelmingly do justice to that categorization, perhaps even elevate it.

The piece "Locked Doors" was satisfying to read, and exemplifies many of the stories in this collection. This particular story is organized in sections of doors: bedroom doors, car doors, and breakdown doors and doors of the imagination. This enhances the lyricism that Parkinson is so adept at utilizing.

At the same time, this story also incorporates a familiar narrative form, told from the point of view of a boy whose sister Gale shatters into three, and this story line is irresistible. His sister’s other two names are Ruby Canyon and Marilynn Glass, and each of them has just the right mix of reality and unreality to make their characters unforgettable.

But perhaps the piece most brilliant is a mere two pages long, "Murder on the Pasture." I must have read this two dozen times, so that the spine of the book, though not yet broken at that place, is inclined to open at page fifty-five. 

This piece appears to be set in the Oklahoma dust bowl, and be a monologue by the ghost of a 17-year-old girl, but oh, that description is quite inadequate and almost irrelevant: though I spent a couple read-throughs attempting to determine just who was talking to me (because the narrator  addresses the reader) by the third time through it was obvious that who I was listening to was mostly up to me.

It was not an entirely new experience to become part of a writer’s process of creation as a reader, but this was one of the few times I felt it was entirely successful.

"Murder on the Pasture" quietly bypasses the very significant perils of reminding the reader that they themselves exist by simply beginning with a short description of the pasture, and then laying down the rules:

            “Touch the door to my old house and you’re in this, too.”

And you know you want to touch that door, open it, so you’re in this. The turmoil you’re going to experience begins immediately with the next short, arresting sentence:

            “Red paint peels like skin.”

Hallelujah. When five words can have that kind of effect on me, it renews my faith in writing.

Parkinson’s prose flows with a subtle, musical rhythm that only prose can achieve, and then  rarely. It is such a gift, and she never uses it more powerfully than in "Murder on the Pasture." Every sentence, every sentence, is exquisite.

Aimee Parkinson has received a Christopher Isher Fellowship, a Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize, other awards, and has been published in numerous journals. She can also write. Boy, can she write.

I am inclined, for the first time, to quote a blurb on the back of the book:.

“These stories are like running a finger around a seemingly smooth edge of glass―you don’t know you’ve been cut until you bleed.”

―Cris Mazza

I wish I had said that.

Do yourself a favor and read this book.

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