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Likely Stories - Small Odysseys: 35 New Stories. SUCH SMALL ISLANDS by Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff’s "Such Small Islands" is one of 35 fascinating stories in “Small Odysseys”

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

According to the dust jacket, “Small Odysseys is a collection that sweeps the reader into the landscape of the contemporary short stories, featuring never-before-published works by thirty-five literary luminaries.” When I finished reading, I was stunned by all the wonderful stories I found. Because the individual stories are short, I have taken the liberty of picking one of my favorite authors, Lauren Groff. The title is “Such Small Islands.”

“The story begins, “They came to the summerhouse in May. There was still a bite to the salty air, and the hydrangeas clenched their fists, wary of blooming. Through the windows, the pool glinted malignantly, and at the edge of the beach, a tiny gardener moved his clipper hands down the hedge. Aura sat under the dining table in the last slab of ocean light as her mother and Phyllis, the housekeeper, spoke in the kitchen.

“Because her mother was just coming into her glory at work—because Aura was sickly and taxing—Aura’s half sister on her father’s side was coming to watch her all summer. Now her mother was asking the housekeeper to make sure the girl’s bedroom would be ready when she arrived in the early morning. Then, Aura watched her mother carry a glass of wine out to the veranda, where dinner was cooling. She called, ‘Aura! Aura! The anger growing in her voice, but Aura ignored her. She crept along with the lash of sunlight that swiftly diminished over the floor. The sky bled purplish orange. At last, her mother stopped calling, covered her face with both hands, and gently screamed into them.

“In the morning, there was a strange voice downstairs when Aura slid in her socks down the stairs. She came into the kitchen to find her mother at the table in her suit, tapping at her phone with her thumbs. Beside her, a girl with lustrous black hair down to her hips was licking the sugar off the top of her split grapefruit. This was Augusta, but everyone called her Gus. Gus held out her arms, but said, ‘Np, you’re a stranger,’

“‘Silly, of course you know me. Gus laughed. We’re sisters. We saw each other all the time before our dad and your mom got divorced. But Aura’s mother, who brooked no fools, said that Aura had been only two then, of course she couldn’t remember, and their dad barely had time to see her. Then she smiled tightly, as if in conciliation, and said, ‘You haven’t been out to the island before? ‘No,’ Gus said, ‘my mom wouldn’t ever let her come.’ ‘That’s right,’ Aura’s mother said, and in her face, Aura saw first dislike then a slow victory, because Gus was here; Aura’s mother had won. She loved winning.”

Lauren Groff’s “Such Small Islands” is just one example of 35 fascinating stories in “Small Odysseys”

Likely Stories is a Production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely, and Happy reading!