The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons
Winner of the 2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award, Heather A. Slomski’s debut story collection takes loss as its primary subject and holds it up to the light. In prose spare and daring, poised yet startling, these stories take shape in reality, but reality, they sometimes show us, is not a separate realm from the fantastic or the surreal. Two couples meet for dinner to acknowledge an affair. A mannequin recalls a lover and the life she mysteriously lost. Two girls observe a young widow’s grief through a café window. A man’s hat is as discerning as Cinderella’s shoe.
In the fifteen stories that comprise this collection—some short as breaths, two of them novelettes—Slomski writes with a keen eye about relationships. About the desires that pull us together and the betrayals that push us apart. About jealousy, obsession, loneliness and regret—the byproducts of loving someone that keep us awake at night.
The characters in these stories share meals, drink wine, buy furniture and art. They live domestic lives, so often wanting to love someone yet ending up alone. In one story, a woman’s fiancé leaves her when she goes to post some mail. In another story, a man can’t move past an affair his wife almost had. Another story describes a series of drawings to detail a couple’s end. But while loss and heartache pervade these stories, there is also occasional hope. For, as the title story shows us, sometimes a breakup isn’t an end at all, but the beginning of your life.
This collection of stories by Heather A. Slomski has hits and misses. The two standout stories are no doubt the first and last stories–The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons and Before the Story Ends. The former is a story of 2 couples dining together and acknowledging the infidelity that connects them. The latter is one part fairy tale and one part heartbreaking reality–a story of love and loss. My favorite things about this book may just be the title and cover, which I adore. Most of the stories revolve around loss in one form or another, and some of them felt much too unfinished for my taste. There were stories I wanted to go on and others that lived past their prime. An emotional collection to say the least, but I prefer more finished short stories. It’s obvious that Slomski is a talented writer. If you’re a short fiction fan, The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons is for you. (I received a digital arc of this title for review purposes.)