The short story is made for the tales of people whose existence is not big enough for a novel. This genre only has room for one small slice of their lives, the moment that defines them, creates them, or ends them.
So it is with “Treading the Uneven Road,” a series of short stories about the citizens of a small Irish town and the simple events that delineate their lives. As a result, you might not like all the stories. Some of these people make you want to laugh; some make you want to grind your teeth or cry. Some make you want to just shake them and tell them to smarten up, but you know it wouldn’t do any good, because life has already shaken them far too much.
One fascinating part of this collection is the opportunity to see characters from different points of view. In one story we see what someone thinks of a character. In another story we get to find out what the character thinks of herself. And it’s so different, in spite of the fact that the events match perfectly.
In general, these stories are about the loneliness of people who can’t bring themselves to talk about what keeps them apart or might bring them together. Most of the sadness comes from the fact that reconciliation is not always a strength for these people.
The way the stories and characters intertwine is fascinating, although it can be difficult to follow. “The boy” in one story shows up with “the uncle,” whom you soon realize is actually the main character in an earlier story, when “the uncle” was about the same age as “the boy” is now. This can leave you feeling like a rather bemused in-law at a family reunion, missing the in-joke about somebody you only met once some time ago, and you can’t quite remember where everyone fits in.
Which, of course, is just an excuse to go back and read the book again.
Highly recommended for fans of the Short Story in the Maeve Binchy style.(5 / 5)