Monday, October 30, 2023

"Fragile Objects: Short Stories" by Katy Carl

The stories of Flannery O’Connor kept coming to mind as I read Fragile Objects: Short Stories by Katy Carl. But it was O’Connor without the edge of dark humor. Contemporary life has changed since the 1950s and 1960s, and Carl is an author who’s exploring it. Her stories are sometimes bleak, but they always contain an element of hope. 

What the stories have in common is that, in almost all of them, the perspective is that of a young woman or a child. Each narrator has some kind of conflict which serves as the story’s heart. The resolution of those conflicts is never what the reader might expect it to be. And each offers hope, although it’s well-disguised in some cases.


In the title story, “Fragile Objects,” a man takes his young son to see his mother, the boy’s grandmother. The woman is having mental issues, and what begins as a visit is going t end as something else entirely.


“Pantheon” is the story of a young woman, raised in a strict environment, who breaks free but finds herself in another kind of environment, ostensibly loose but with its own strict code of behavior. “Company Men” is about the mindset of the ordained church leaders when rumors begin to surface about a priest and children. 

“Hail Thee, Festival” is the story of one of those ubiquitous school fundraising efforts, this one a carnival. All seems to be going well, until a very loud woman begins to condemn the effort. “Omnes Habitantes in Hoc Habitaculo” describes how a dominating matriarch, accompanied by other dead relatives, reaches from beyond the grave and tells a young girl what to do. “The convert” is the story of a new believer, who risks the ridicule of his friends to begin taking instruction in the church, only to find no priests available to instruct.


Katy Carl

“Allie” and ‘Jack” are related stories about a young woman who makes her office and her home relationship work, but both begin to go awry. She discovers she’s pregnant when Jack leaves. In “Sequatchie Valley,” the longest story in the collection, a young couple (the woman a bit more ambivalent) decide to engage in organic farming. They buy a farm and move in with their two young children. Then day-to-day reality hits, and the young woman finds herself increasingly unable to cope. 


”Battleground States” tells the story of two women who make three promises to each other – never accept exploitation, never become oppressors, and no evil men. And then one texts the other with a simple message: “I broke rule three.” “Awards Day” is about what happens when a girl who deserves an award, and has worked for it, believes she won’t get it for all the wrong reasons. But she receives an award she doesn’t expect.


Another story, “Solo,” is so short that to describe it is to give it away.


Carl is the editor in chief of Dappled Things Magazine. Her stories and articles have appeared in numerous literary publications, and she previously published the novel As Earth Without Water (2021). She was chosen as Wiseblood Books first writer in residence in 2020, and she is pursuing an MFA degree in creative writing at the University of St. Thomas in Houston., whose founding faculty were James Matthew Wilson and Joshua Hren. 


The stories of Fragile Objects read like an ongoing discussion of contemporary life, with its fractured relationships and broken dreams. But is always grace, and there is always hope.


Some Monday Readings


Why Are Rural Kids More Upwardly Mobile? – Robert VerBruggen at the Institute for Family Studies.


Worth Every Ruble: Katz’s ‘Brothers Karamazov’ – John Stamps at Miller’s Book Review.


Things Wirth Remembering: The Delights and Frights of Halloween – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


The journey of Dorothy Sayers – from classical education to murder mysteries and back – Terry Mattingly at Get Religion. 

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