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Tiny Shoes Dancing and Other Stories

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Jody catalogues her parental failures as she worries whether her ballet-crazed teen daughter will make it onto the stage. C.J. adopts his dead grandmother’s dog, risking eviction but opening himself to the possibility of love. Brianna uses a spoonful of pudding as a weapon. Judy begins a secret life as an erotica writer. Jake’s Bar Mitvah preparations reveal tensions that threaten to split his family.

The women, men, children, dogs, and cats in these stories fight their worst impulses, circle each other warily, and occasionally connect. They struggle to make sense of the world and their place in it, with results sometimes tragic, sometimes funny, and always relatable.

This collection of short fiction from novelist Audrey Kalman opens a door on ordinary worlds turned extraordinary, where deeper meaning hides beneath everyday conversations and the possibility of tragedy—and redemption—is always close at hand.

184 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 8, 2018

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About the author

Audrey Kalman

13 books111 followers
Audrey Kalman writes literary fiction with a dark edge, often about what goes awry when human connection is missing from our lives. She is the author of two novels, What Remains Unsaid and Dance of Souls. Her collection of short fiction, Tiny Shoes Dancing and Other Stories was published in 2018 and was shortlisted for the 2019 Rubery Book Award. Her latest publication is "The Last Storyteller," in release weekly on the Kindle Vella platform.

Many online and print journals have published her short fiction and poetry, including "Boundoff," "Every Day Fiction," "Fault Zone," "The Jewish Literary Journal," "Mash Stories," "Pithead Chapel," "Punchnels," "The Sand Hill Review," and "Sixfold." She edited two editions of the "Fault Zone" anthology of California writers (Fault Zone Shift and Fault Zone Diverge).

She lives in northern California and is at work on two more novels. Find out more at www.audreykalman.com.

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews
Profile Image for Ann-Marie "Cookie M.".
1,051 reviews119 followers
January 31, 2020
Audrey Kalman's stories were uncomfortable for me to read. They all seemed unfinished somehow, as if something was missing. It was as if she had baked a batch of cookies and left out some ingredient, but the faster couldn't quite tell what it was.
And, the more of her cookies I ate the more convinced I became she did it on purpose.
I see her with all the ingredients lined up on her counter. One by one, she adds them to the mixer. She reached for this one, the vanilla, and thinks, "Not this time. These cookies will unsettle, not calm. People will squinch their eyes and wonder if I love them anymore. If anyone cares."

I received this book free from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone should eat unsettling cookies now and then.
Profile Image for Samantha Henthorn.
Author 12 books47 followers
August 25, 2020
Everyone needs short stories and these quality pieces are narrated too. Tiny Shoes Dancing and Other Stories are 21 short literary fictions with an added dark twist. I enjoyed them all but particularly memorable is the title story. Pushy parents, ambitious daughters who 'manage to sound both snarky and guilty' (brilliant). Body image is dramatically highlighted. Untitled Erotica is hilarious as is Mistress Mine about a reincarnated jealous dog. The Appointed Time and Place really made me smile 'For an underwear model, he had a lovely face.'
Audrey Kalman has the great skill of creating a world inside a few pages and this is only enhanced by her narration of the whole book. Her voice sounds like a famous actor - maybe she is!
Profile Image for James.
478 reviews25 followers
February 25, 2019
I am hesitant to compare writers, but I'll freely admit that Ms. Kalman's short stories had me thinking about my favorite short story writers, Salinger, Carver, Bradbury, et al.

The stories in this book are more impressionist character studies than event-driven narratives. I'll confess to feeling a little guilty for having peeked into the lives of some of the characters.

Although most of the stories left me in a gloomy mood, I'm happy I discovered this collection of stories and their talented writer.
Profile Image for Tori Rumschlag.
154 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2022
Kalman offers a series of poignant, beautiful short stories. Her writing is lyrical and captivating. I enjoyed how each of the characters were brought to life for a short time, pulling the readers in until they're invested in the story. There's a strong lack of resolution for many of these stories - but that's reflective of real life: it's not over until you're dead (and, as Kalman asserts in one of her stories, maybe not even then). However, a couple of the stories lacked both resolution and satisfaction, which I struggle with (it's my completionist nature, I think). Overall a worthwhile read.
Profile Image for Carrie.
573 reviews13 followers
May 23, 2018
This beautiful collection of short stories takes the reader into the minds of characters who could, in reality, be any one of us. Through their introspection and self-reflection, we re-experience our own lives as parents, siblings, and children, and—in a remarkably relatable and emotional piece—even a pet.

Kalman has a knack for weaving sentences you want to read and then reread to absorb not only their beauty, but their depth: “Frank is a grain of sand that causes Ingrid to accrete layer upon layer of resentment.”

Many of the stories are dark, just as life itself can be dark. Many of them are haunting, the kind of story that lingers with you long after you’ve read it. And all of them are visceral, their emotional prose reaching not only your eyes and brain, but your heart as well.

A bonus? Readers who have read Kalman’s book “What Remains Unsaid” will enjoy an excerpt of the novel told from a different character’s point of view.

I want to thank the author and publisher for an ARC of this short story collection. I highly recommend readers add it to their to-read list.
Profile Image for Ronald Keeler.
846 reviews32 followers
January 17, 2019
Tiny Shoes Dancing by Audrey Kalman is a collection of twenty short stories. Kalman selects significant elements from primarily insignificant lives, the lives that don’t get a mention in the supermarket tabloids. Short stories are great; they fill time and are portable. There is no guilt in not completing them because you can always put off the pesky routine tasks which you know you have to do … right after you finish the short story you are reading. The stories in this collection are great because they make the reader feel important. We have all had some variation on these normal, everyday challenges. Well, most of them. There are some tales which are weird.

Tiny Shoes Dancing ***** Jody was a “stage mother” for daughter Adeline as far as ballet. Adeline was completely dedicated to her talent; she had to get a new pair of practice shoes every month. Old ones never were thrown away; Jody spent time with the shoe collection under the stairs visiting the collection and revisiting the memories of Adeline at different stages of development. Jody also knew a legend that illustrated the power of shoes.

Forget Me, Forget Me Not ***** Lilah is a long-distance runner. She passed miles 18 and 22; they were the worst. Mile 36 should have been easy. High achievement can bring high consequences.

Back After a Break to Discuss the Decline of Civilization ***** Marilee was jealous of her husband’s desires. She may or not have had reason to feel jealous but if there was a reason it was not all her husband’s fault; Marilee had willingly participated in activities that sparked the jealousy.

Before There Was a Benjamin ***** Benjamin was a star child, a very special person who completely dominated Melinda’s life. His special abilities developed later than most children. Benjamin had a special affection for Aunt Tara, a rock music singer from Melinda and husband Peter’s past. Peter had picked Melinda and changed to a more conservative life but the three were still friends.

Everyone Is Gone ***** This is a very sad perspective on aging. Older readers should either skip it or be warned unless (the best alternative) they are experiencing happiness in their later years.

Untitled Erotica ***** Bored with her freelance writing assignments, Judy writes some soft-core porn. Surprisingly, it sells. An agent contacted her for more and now she was to meet him face to face. The contrast between the agent’s male model body and her husband’s more corpulent and aged one steers Judy to look at other humdrum routines and contrasts between her life and her desired life. As her writing career thrives, she contemplates how to reveal her secret life to her husband; a boring, stable, comfortable man with no secrets.

Pearls ***** Ingrid counts things, not in an OCD type of way. She just wants to keep count. First, she counts all the things that irritate her. There were five. Then she counted her blessings. Some of these will surprise the reader. This story is worth reading for the blessings alone.

The Appointed Time and Place ***** Lara was Christian’s makeup artist and old enough to be his mother. But what woman would not look at a male underwear model? It is a good thing she wasn’t involved with him.

Skyping with the Rabbi ***** Jake was getting better and better at computer games. He had begun at ten when he lied about being thirteen. Now he was near to becoming a man; his Bar Mitzvah was close. Over the same period, his parents developed in another direction by getting closer and closer to Divorce. Then the rat died.

Put the Sweater on the Dog ***** Carlo loved his grandmother and that made sense because she raised him after his mom ran away. Carlo didn’t really miss her and didn’t like his dope addict father at all. When grandma died and told him to take care of the dog, Donatello, Carlo had no choice but to do it even though he couldn’t have dogs in the apartment. Then he met the girl in the park.

So She Says ***** This is the story of a fast learning curve on falling in love and losing it all.

When All Else Fails ***** I think this is the best story of the collection. Here is the last line, (not a spoiler) “If anyone asks, she’ll tell them what comes after all else fails is another day.” (Kindle Location 1819).

The Boy in the Window ***** This is a story of a life lived twice through someone very close.

Pudding ***** We don’t know the age of the Main Character in this story, but she is a comparatively young girl in recovery. But is she recovering?

Mistress Mine ***** This is a story of cats and dogs told from a different perspective.

Bad Luck with Cats ***** Most people count the years of their lives in years. Margaret counted the years of her life in cats.

Dosed ***** This story is tied to the one above. Cats survive.

This Ain’t No Fairy Tale ***** There is a sense of inevitability that two very different worlds will come together as fairy godmother Lisa pulls fairy godson DeShawn back from the brink of disaster in a real world. Or maybe not.

If Only You Weren’t So ***** A mother’s love for her son triumphs. Take that, Anton.

The Bureau of Lost Earrings ***** This story presents another way to count our way to life’s exit; this time the measurement is earrings. It is certainly a more elegant way than contemplating the loss of one sock.

I look for selections of short stories on Amazon. This great collection sells for USD 0.99. I gave it five stars for its wide diversity and the author’s ability to give lots of meaning to everyday events. There is a hint of darkness in each story, something that appeals to my everyday mood.

Profile Image for Alicia M.
48 reviews
March 2, 2019
I received this book free from Voracious Readers. A collection of short stories that showcase various families and their struggles, triumphs, worries and experiences. The stories deal with topics such as anorexia, family pressure, marital troubles, the fine line between attraction and obsession, love and reincarnation/reinvention. Sometimes intertwined, the stories creep through the characters lives to show readers what happens behind closed doors.

I gave this book 3.5 stars. The collection overall was enjoyable. As with any short story collection, some of the stories were more interesting than others. Some I skimmed through a little whereas some I took more time and really felt the story and emotions. I thought the writing was good and the characters were interesting. The language used by the author was poetic and beautiful, and really painted a picture. Each story was very different but they all felt connected by a common thread of human fallacy and failure. I found common ground with the characters and sympathised with them. Short stories aren't usually my favourite but this collection was short and fun to read. I would recommend it and I did enjoy it. While I doubt I would read through the whole book again, I might reread some of the individual stories in the future. I think my favourite was the title story, Tiny Shoes Dancing.
Profile Image for Rubery Book Award.
209 reviews12 followers
July 27, 2019
Shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award 2019

The title story is about an obsessive mother, Judy, who's living vicariously through her daughter, an aspiring ballerina. Her daughter doesn't arrive for the latest performance and what follows is a story of obsession and guilt, unpacked with fluency and effortless, inventive imagery. The second piece, Forget Me, Forget Me Not focuses on an obsessive long-distance runner in training; her running route takes her toward a meeting at an agreed spot with her partner, Paul, who is to drive her back home. Tripping on a rock in the woods, she is faced with the prospect of dying in the wilderness. Where the first story was about the obsessive demands we put on others, this explores the demands we put on ourselves. Thus obsession is quickly established as a theme in this collection, and we see how characters are blinkered by it, to the point where it consumes them: as with the anorexic protagonist in Pudding, whose obsession diminishes her literally, or the makeup artist in Appointed Time, obsessed with an underwear model, or the speaker of So She Says, obsessed with raising the child he never even knew he wanted. The author charts a course deep into the heart of our psychological preoccupations, exploring those dark places with relentless wit, lyricism and candour. A superb collection.

Profile Image for Elise Miller.
Author 5 books16 followers
July 1, 2018
Audrey Kalman has conferred a starring role to language in Tiny Shoes Dancing and Other Stories. In the titular story, mother Jody gives her daughter a “name that would allow her to skim the stage like an angel. Not a name like her own, which sounds like work boots thumping on a dirty floor.” Later, daughter Adeline’s cream satin shoes “brushed the floor with the sound of an expelled sigh.” Like all Kalman’s imagery, this forerunner of things to come serves the characters and moves the story forward. In a brief space, each story ranging from three to about fifteen pages, she catches our attention, moves us swiftly into the lives of a multitude of characters – dyads, tryads, lovers, parents and children – then reaches a neat climax and an unexpected resolution. Her head-on address of the big issues is original and courageous. She heightens our sense of the thrill of love, sex, and life, yet we’re also exposed to the smell and taste of death, the frailty of old age, the blood and bile of injury, and the frustration and terror of parenting. Kalman’s imagination seems boundless. Her enthusiasm for life’s odd twists is contagious. I cannot understand why the literary world doesn’t make a bigger fuss over Audrey Kalman. She’s as good as it gets!

Profile Image for Ritu.
Author 1 book9 followers
November 13, 2019
I haven't read short stories in a while, and it was lovely to get back to reading them with this evocative book. I think the fun of short stories is that you can jump around based on the intriguing titles and that's what I did. I think Audrey has an insight into people that makes her work compelling. I always love character-driven work - whether it's in books or in T.V. (I watch shows like Father Brown or old Rabindranath Tagore stories because it's the character and their complexities that draw me in). There were several stories that especially spoke to me. I loved Tiny Shoes Dancing, for example. As an artist, creative expression is very important to me, so I can imagine how not expressing our true creative selves as women can create a rupture in us. I will let you discover the story on your own! This book is a lovely collection of stories, some intriguing and some sad that will capture your attention. I can see why it was shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award. The language is also very beautiful.
Profile Image for Bill Baynes.
Author 4 books24 followers
June 11, 2018
Tiny Shoes Dancing, the new story collection from Audrey Kalman, presents the private moments and personal fears of ordinary Americans. Her credible, recognizable characters are not always nice, not always human and not often happy.

A runner falls and wonders whether anyone will ever find her. A girl boots her cheating spouse like her mother did her father. A husband reincarnates as a dog and tries to get his wife to “own” him. A makeup artist makes out with an underwear model. A man has to force himself to get out of bed.
In the powerful This Ain’t No Fairy Tale, Kalman paints a haunting portrait of a child without hope, the women who worry about him and a suburban matron who wants to help him.

Don’t look for happy endings here. Don’t look for endings at all. Kalman shows us people talking past each other, people who can’t get out of their own way, the quietly desperate, the disconnected.

She is an assured writer with a voice that ranges from the lyrical to the surreal to the cruel. She is never predictable. Her vivid imagery is scattered throughout these twenty stories. A woman feels “the cool feather of her grandmother’s breath of her cheek.” A neighborhood is “like a snoozing cat under the sun.” Slum apartments are built “of brown bricks … like stacks of shit.”

This is strong stuff. You start watching people at the supermarket, speculating about their inner demons, half-expecting an encounter.

Kalman can do that.
Author 18 books72 followers
August 8, 2018
“Curiouser and Curiouser.” This quip from Alice in Wonderland resonates sharply in Tiny Shoes Dancing, a collection of twenty-one short stories to be admired as much for their craftsmanship as their depictions of human disconnect. I will never forget the concluding image of the title story, where a stage mother is assailed by the sight of ballet slippers dancing out of step with her hunger for vicariously glory. But my favorite is “Untitled Erotica,” in which a housewife seeks a career as the next E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey) only to discover that the tables have been ironically turned on her. Ranging from the magical to the tragic, this is a collection of stories to be savored with plenty of breathing room in between. Five stars! Note: I was gifted a copy of this book and am voluntarily writing a review.

James Hanna, author of The Siege, Call Me Pomeroy, A Second Less Capable Head.
173 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2018
Anything written by Audrey Kalman is creative, thought-provoking, and very well written. So it is with her latest, "Tiny Dancing Shoes." Kalman examines a wide range of topics through a series of short stories that delve into the human condition - from small daily routines to big picture, weighty philosophical questions. The current film, "Hearts Beat Loud" has a gem of a quote: "We turn life's conundrums into art." This is precisely what Audrey Kalman has done in this enlightening volume of short stories, "Tiny Dancing Shoes." If you are looking for mind-stretching experiences, I highly recommend this book as it is enjoyable, an easy read and has a refreshing literary style, reminiscent of times when readers valued not only what was said, but how it was said.
Profile Image for Laura.
3,173 reviews315 followers
December 19, 2018
I am giving this book 4 stars NOT because this is an author you don`t want to piss off.
Her imagination can go to some very dark places and be exceptionally creative. Her prose is beautiful and delightfully illustrative. Before she takes us to a dark place she fills the world with light and possibilities. It just seems that she eventually leads down a darkened path.
Not all stories will tell you what actually happens. The best part of a story or book over a film or other media is how your mind fills in the blanks and the experience is never the same for two readers, or even one when read multiple times.
Meant to be read in drips and drabs, this collection of shorts will keep you on your toes ~~~~ until you are unable to.

Profile Image for Emily .
215 reviews2 followers
January 13, 2019
Tiny Shoes Dancing And Other Stories by Audrey Kalman is a collection of her short stories that are written with a dark edge.

Each story is unique with its unexpected twist and spin, and more often than not would lead readers down a dark path of fascination. The author normally would leave the stories “open-ended”, allowing readers to imagine their perspective on the endings.

This is my first read of Audrey Kalman, and I adore her creative spin of these short stories that are not uncommon because they are telling the reality of life.
Profile Image for Jessica.
25 reviews
January 9, 2019
The author's prose and short stories were really well written. The author is able to fill your imagination with light and then suddenly take it down a dark path. I like how the author allows you to imagine your own version of how the story ends by leaving a cliffhanger, however, as I kept reading I just wanted the author's version of how the story ends. (That is why I am leaving 4 stars and not 5)
18 reviews1 follower
February 9, 2019
In a collection of 20 short stories Audrey succeeds in taking the reader on an emotional journey through some of the most tragic events in their lives. Each stories scarily realistic premise could be any one of our lives. I challenge any reader of this collection not to feel connected to and deeply touched by one of these characters stories.
Profile Image for Holly L'Heureux.
295 reviews13 followers
November 21, 2020
The stories in this collection were well written, in fact there were a few I enjoyed. But the dark, sad, and cheating nature of them kind of got to me after a while and I just was not that interested in so much sad. Still was a good read.

Also, I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and I am glad I won it.
27 reviews
January 12, 2019
While I thoroughly enjoyed the stories they definitely had a darker side to them. I found them to be the perfect size for reading in breaks. I received a copy of the book from the author via Voracious Readers Only in return for a honest review.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
222 reviews4 followers
March 21, 2022
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I've never read anything by this author, but I am glad for this introduction. I will definitely be reading more. These short stories captured real life. I am impressed by the character development in such short bursts.
Profile Image for Karen.
7 reviews
March 29, 2022
Thank you for the book giveaway…

I’ve been reading older short story collections recently and this is so straightforward and relatable in comparison. I received this as a Goodreads giveaway and it’s a wonderful collection.
Profile Image for Emily Perkovich.
Author 16 books47 followers
May 3, 2022
I received this through a Goodreads giveaway

I enjoyed that many of these stories just barely bordered into surrealism. There were some that I think might work better as longer pieces, but I loved the writing style. The voice was very similar to older short story writers rather than contemporaries.
Profile Image for Allyson.
154 reviews7 followers
January 11, 2019
Sad Short Stories

Sad doesn’t mean bad. These stories will make you feel something; just not happy. But be prepared for very few happy endings.
Profile Image for Kathy Webb.
465 reviews25 followers
January 24, 2019
I won this Kindle edition book in a GoodReads giveaway - thank you to everyone involved.
A wonderful collection of short stories - all well written - all very good.
Profile Image for Korie.
12 reviews
September 22, 2018
I took my time with this thought-provoking collection of short stories, discovering that I needed to savor each character, digest my feelings and reflect on the beauty of the writing. The image that comes to mind now, after finishing the book, is a wonderfully dark, bittersweet box of chocolates; each story delivering its own unique bite of reality while holding a different secret deep inside. Kalman’s use of language and ability to turn in directions unforeseen, allow her to reveal the unexpected twists that we all face in our lives. She reminds us of our fragility and our resilience. Though often dark in nature, she sheds light on those things that make us human.
Profile Image for Deb.
416 reviews13 followers
January 5, 2019
This book of short stories by Audrey Kalman really resonated with me. The stories are different but deal with common issues, most related to marriage and family. Divorce was a frequent story element, and it was really interesting to see divorce explored from a number of different perspectives. Kalman looks at how family turmoil affects people throughout their lives.

There’s an everyday, “slice of life” feeling to these stories. Kalman leaves you wanting more in each story, and then occasionally revisits a character in the next story. There are some fantastical elements to the stories, but mostly these are people leading the same kinds of lives we do.

My favorite story was “When All Else Fails” which is actually an excerpt from one of Kalman’s novels, written from a different character’s perspective (I haven’t read the novel, What Remains Unsaid). In this story, a woman remembers the day her mother locked her father out of the house, and she worries about the effects of that on her own troubled marriage. Is she a deserter or simply taking care of herself? Some other favorite stories were:
• "Before There Was a Benjamin": about a mother struggling to care for her autistic child and remembering the days before parenthood.
• "Everyone is Gone": about an elderly woman hanging on to her independence and a clerk in a dollar store who build an unlikely friendship.
• "Untitled Erotica": about a wife in a failing marriage who secretly begins a career writing erotic short stories.
• "Pearls": a very short story in which a woman discovers that her greatest irritations are also her blessings.
• "Skyping with the Rabbi": a story about a young man preparing for his Bar Mitzvah, which brought back memories of my own.
• "The Bureau of Lost Earrings": a woman thinks about the sixty years of her life in relation to different earrings she’s received and lost.

There are elements of stalking or controlling behavior in many of these stories, whether it’s about parents and children, husbands and wives, or simply strangers on the street. In these very short stories, Kalman gives us glimpses of complicated issues, never resolving them but always leaving questions in the mind of the reader. There was so much in these stories that I could identify with, from the woman who tells a story of her life through her jewelry, to struggling to cope with the effects of divorce, to worrying whether you’re strong enough or a good enough spouse or parent.

Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher Terrella Media. My full review is at http://thebookstop.wordpress.com.
January 12, 2019
This book had me from page one! 20 stories was an embarrassment of riches! Truth to tell,I would rather compare these stories to a collection ofjewlry than a box of chocolates, the choiceof a favorite is just as difficult, but in these rales the emphasis is on the art, the finesse of making every word count. IDo have a favorite, though the choice was hard. The crown jewel,for this voracious readerwas "Skypeing with the Rabbi"It is a contempotery tale of innocence lost,of coming of age,and the inevitable clash between the worlds of children and adults. The title story is an extremely close second: taking anew look at a very old cationary tale about ambition and the priceany art exacts. Ms Kalman's insistant useof the present tense holds the reader to the story,will not allow evasion intothe past or future.The effect is spell-binding!
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