The collection is subtitled “Tales from the Cities”, the cities being early 1970s Denver and Boston, and New York in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of Wendy Brandmark’s characters are in a state of flux, either their lives are about to change or they discover something that could be life-changing and the story stops in time to guide the readers to deciding whether the character would stay or leave.
In “The Stone Woman”, a young girl is afraid of the ‘witch’ in the basement apartment, but, when the girl gets lost, the ‘witch’ comes to the rescue and the girl befriends the Jewish woman who is prepared to tell the girl the truth about her ill grandmother that her parents have tried to protect her from. But the woman won’t talk about the number tattoos on her wrist.
A student, inspired by John Millais’ “Ophelia” is drawn to Pre-Raphaelite-style gowns in “The Denver Ophelia” that she finds in thrift shops in the hope her professor will notice her. However, she discovers she’s not the only one with a crush. Will she see sense or persist in her unrequited love?
A man faces a conflict of loyalties in “The Book Thief” when he discovers his kleptomaniac girlfriend has stolen from his friend’s bookstore.
A teacher of illiterate adults discovers his flatmate has gone back to a lover who doesn’t respect him while one of his students forms the phrase “He Runs the Moon” because he couldn’t find the word ‘sees’. Does the teacher intervene or let his flatmate discover for himself that he’s making a mistake?
Within the brief space of her short stories, readers get to know the characters in Wendy Brandmark’s atmospheric stories well enough to suspect they know which decision the characters will take. The selective but rich details in each story make them distinct and memorable with their characters coming to life. Each story is focused and targeted on its plot so it feels exactly the right length with no story outstaying its welcome.