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Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves

Review

Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves

What do you hide from the world? This intriguingly innovative collection of short stories explores the secrets of people across time and genre, creating a fascinating reflection on human nature, what we consider shameful and what haunts us from our private lives. What I love the most about this collection was that it knew no bounds in terms of genre or realism --- there is so much diversity that every reader will form a different opinion, and it’s exciting to think about the conversations those agreements or disagreements will generate. The book can provide a platform for discussion for things that we do and do not understand.

I’ll talk about the story I found to be weakest first, and I didn’t necessarily dislike this story --- I just thought that it wasn't as engaging and that it didn’t have as strong of a connection to the theme. The story was “Little Wolf and the Iron Pin” (though it is an admittedly fantastic title), which was about a young woman from a poor family suddenly married to a strange widowed lord in a nondescript past age of England (the tone suggested Medieval, but the description of the manor suggested a later period). Told from the point of view of the younger sister, she follows her newly married sibling to the manor, which no one in the poverty-stricken, starved village has heard of or seen. It is quickly revealed that the lord is a murderer in the style of Bluebeard, killing wives for their skins, and, as it’s vaguely implied, for their meat, too. Spoiler alert: the little girl kills the lord with her little iron hair pin, and he then turns to dust --- he was evidently some kind of mystical creature. He was also the cause of the famine striking the land.

This story didn’t work for me because the secret in this story was one that was obvious --- the lord was killing people. All of the preceding stories had been about these amazing and heartbreaking struggles that people (not always the narrator) hide within themselves, and they invite readers to think about their own secrets and what they would do in that same situation. Well, no one’s going to really connect to hiding bodies, and since the story was short, there wasn’t enough time to connect to the characters and thus root for them in their battle against this evil character. And, since the story carried the aura of a classic fairy tale, I knew that the little girl would somehow triumph. However, this story was really the only one that moved me to be this critical, as the remainder of the collection was vibrant and provocative and held my attention with its cast of brilliant voices.

This intriguingly innovative collection of short stories explores the secrets of people across time and genre, creating a fascinating reflection on human nature.

I must talk about “Storm Clouds Fleeing from the Wind” by Zoe Marriott or I will burst. I almost don’t want to say anything about it because I want to give absolutely nothing away. This story actually took my breath away. I was shaking afterwards. Incredible. The writing was transcendent, poetic, evocative, oh jeez --- all these adjectives won’t do it justice. I felt myself drowning in a tsunami of emotion --- that is, if the tsunami were as gentle and soothing as a lazy river. I was overwhelmed, and it felt amazing. It’s set in feudal Japan among the majestic and terrifying ethereal world of geishas, and I won’t say anything else because readers must experience this story “all new.”

Another standout was the rousing opener about a young girl trying to hide her mother’s hoarding problem --- her secret is betrayed by someone she thought was her best friend. It’s one heck of an opening, and it lets the reader know that they are in for a ride. And there were stories where the narrator’s voice resounded so humanly that I swore they stood next to me, like in “Partial Reinforcement” and “Choices.” The closing story, “A Thousand Words,” was a fantastic conclusion. It was hard-hitting and sure to get a guttural reaction from many readers.

The collection opened strong and closed strong, and there were home runs all throughout the game. This book comes highly recommended, and I think it will please many different readers. Props to Ann Angel for putting this together, and I look forward to both the solo work and (hopefully!) collaborations from these authors in the future.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on March 11, 2015

Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves
by Ann Angel