Mari LivTollefsonCarlson's Reviews > Were We Awake

Were We Awake by L.M.   Brown
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it was amazing

Surprise is the theme in L.M. Brown’s luminous collection of short stories, Were We Awake, out today, November 20.
Some of the stories in this latest collection are linked, as are the stories in Brown’s previous release, Treading the Uneven Road (March 2019). Raymond, whose father dies in a work accident, appears in a few stories. The murderer of Nick Moody, found dead behind a pub, and Nick’s family also feature in more than one tale. A clown, starfish, cats, exotic birds, estranged couples and lonely children star in others.
The stories revolve around a secret or a truth characters don’t want to admit to themselves or others. Nollaig, friend of Raymond’s mother, thinks about “all the things people kept inside, like the grief for a cat, and questions about a certain night” (192). In Hidden, Hazel learns about the twisted relationship between the adults in her household. In What It Means to Be Empty-Handed, a girl pretends to be the lost baby in an article she reads. The power she feels as she acts her part becomes her greatest vulnerability. In Crashing two mothers mourn the loss of their sons, one by the other’s accidental killing. Cold Spell and Green Balloons stand out for their hopefulness about lasting friendships. Regardless of happy or sad endings, the surprises revealed are the icing on a cake of suspense and subtle, psychological shifts.
Brown turns the ordinary into a spooky extraordinary through stark, cryptic language. The stories take place in Ireland and on the US east coast, in everyday settings: kitchen tables, living rooms, neighborhood lanes, bedrooms, and littered beaches. Such innocuous spaces become liminal in Brown’s literary worlds. For the workmate of Raymond’s dead father, “the room was the crack” not to step on in the childhood game (10). Small details become clues to an underlying mystery. “He looked to the left, and then stepped back” (115). Enigmatic descriptions conjure something lurking below the surface.
Were We Awake are beautifully rendered horror stories, haunting, yet refined. Like the Emily Dickinson poem from which the title comes, the stories startle and wow in their dreamy drama. The awful-er, the better, so long as they remain fiction.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 20, 2019 – Shelved

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