“Springtime on Mars: Short Stories” by Susan Woodring
I received “Springtime on Mars” as part of a blog tour for Susan Woodring. This book of short stories was released at the end of February by Press 53, a small, independent press whose goal is to showcase exemplary literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction and whose website admonishes you to “Literate Yourself” (a motto I love, by the way). “Springtime on Mars” is proof that small publishers like Press 53 can put out works which can compete in quality with offerings from the major publishing houses.
I was amazed with the variety of stories told in “Springtime.” All of the stories are set approximately between the 1950s and the 1970s and deal with life in middle-income middle America. Some stories are told in first person, others in third, some from the perspective of children, other from adult perspectives. Yet somehow all of the stories seem to have their own, authentic personality, no two sounding alike.
The slight exception to that rule is the couple that is the focus of two stories. We see them first a married couple with two children, then later are taken back to the early days of their marriage, which provides a greater depth and background for the original story. The decision to tell Marianne and Joe’s story out of chronological order lends complexity to the characters that the reader is left to discover for his or herself, upon realizing that this couple’s future has already been revealed to her or him.
I am not generally a fan of short stories, I often cannot stay interested in a set of characters I know will only be around for 20 pages or so. However, “Springtime on Mars” kept me wanting to see what characters Woodring was going to introduce next. I was more invested in “Springtime on Mars” than I have been with any collection of short stories since “Interpreter of Maladies.” The subjects, and even the writing styles, of the two books are very different, but the heart is the same. I would recommend “Springtime on Mars” to fans of short stories as well as to those who would like to give short stories a try.
You can see a guest post by Susan about using short story collections for book clubs here, and an interview with her here.