Alrighty, so what was my experience reading Where the Dog Star Never Glows by Tara Lynn Masih (she/her)? I was all ready for more short stories since I just finished Strange Weather and enjoyed it. Yet, I need to remember that short story writers come at you with such different styles. For instance, in Masih’s collection, she frequently starts a story with a vague paragraph that made me think “uh?” and then I would move on. Typically, we jump to another time period, often later, and the scene is set. Perhaps a couple on vacation or a daughter caring for her schizophrenic mother.
But there is something about that dreamy first paragraph that throws me off, and I feel less focused as I read the remainder of the story. I assume I missed something. I do not remember names from that first paragraph. I lose connections. Why? Well, a short story has limited time to catch you, get you invested, and then emotionally appeal to you. If I spend the first paragraph confused and then the next few pages feeling like I didn’t see the cover of the jigsaw puzzle box but must assemble the pieces nonetheless, it’s not easy to appeal to my feelings.
On the other hand, Masih’s longer stories did get me invested, once I got past the beginning. The biggest problem with focus for me were the shorter short stories, 2-5 pages. What I got from my experience is that I would likely enjoy Masih’s novel, My Real Name is Hanna, much more. Right now her novel is gaining attention again (it was published in 2018) because it is set in Ukraine. My local library even included it on a curated list of books about Ukraine.
Depending on what kind of short story reader you are, you will really enjoy Where the Dog Star Never Glows. Each piece was quite different, as Masih takes us around the globe to India, the Caribbean, Mexico, the Netherlands, etc., so that is something to look forward to. There is nothing that drives me batty like a short story collection in which each story sounds like a reworking of the same idea.
I like a varied short story collection too – when the stories are too similar, I think, just write a novel for cryin’ out loud.
I feel like when the stories are too similar the author is basically masticating on the same idea to arrive at the best place. In the end, I feel like I’m reading various drafts instead of complete stories.
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It’s a shame that the author didn’t do a good enough job of connecting those first paragraphs to the rest did the stories. But it sounds like you enjoyed it overall? Maybe?
I enjoyed the stories more as I got into them, so it’s a style choice that other readers may enjoy more than I do.
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