I’ve always believed that less-able writers produce longer books: it takes a great deal of skill and talent to write a short story which holds the reader and keeps them coming back for more. There are far too many collections of short stories which are all too easy to put down and forget after you’ve read a couple of pieces. I’ve recently read a couple of novellas by Laura Solomon – Marsha’s Deal and Hell’s Unveiling and enjoyed them, so I was intrigued to see what she could do with an even shorter form.
I did wonder about the title ”Tales of Love and Disability” and thought that I’d probably read the collection of eighteen stories over a week or so but in the event they only lasted for a couple of days: I fell into the ‘just one more’ trap and saw no reason not to indulge myself. Laura Solomon has had a brain tumour herself and speaks from personal experience but what comes over in the stories and from Solomon herself is a complete lack of self-pity and it’s this which converts what could have been a series of depressing stories into ones which are uplifting.
The opening story ”Prosthesis” has a playfulness about it – quite literally. A pianist acquires a state-of-the-art prosthetic right arm, but it develops a mind of its own and costs the pianist his job. I didn’t expect to laugh, but I did. ”Vision” establishes beyond doubt that not everyone who recovers from illness can be generous and grateful – or that those they come into contact with will be kind and understanding. I’d read the next story, ”Marsha’s Deal” before and thought that I would probably skip through it, but this was where I realised the depth of Solomon’s writing: once I started reading the story, I couldn’t stop. It was fun to spot some of the nuances which I’d missed on first reading. Even on a second reading it was still darkly humorous and thought provoking.
”Castle” tells the story of Jack Davidson who flew in his dreams, but who, in real life, was wheelchair bound because of muscular dystrophy. At school he was bullied, but he had a secret: Jack had found a portal to other dimensions and uses his power to turn the bullies into blind mice. It doesn’t turn out well – for Jack or the bullies, but there are other compensations. ”Catfishing” made me smile when a woman left on her own to bring up a disabled child neatly gets her own back on the man who abandoned mother and child.
My favourite story is ”Old Hat” when a hat which is separated from its owner causes all sorts of problems until it’s reunited with the old lady. It worked both ways as Mrs Pemberton had been behaving badly in the care home until the hat came back to her. It’s a story I’ve read several times and it always makes me smile. ”Boris v. Shelob” is thought provoking: it’s a tale of robotic spiders sent out to find drugs and there will be just a little bit of you which wonders just how close it is to the truth.
I’ve touched on just a few of the eighteen stories. As with all collections some are stronger than others, but there are none which I would regard as weak. I had a great deal of fun when I was least expecting it and I’d like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
After you’ve read this collection I’m sure that you’ll enjoy Laura Solomon’s Hell’s Unveiling, the sequel to ”Marsha’s Deal”.