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Falling Women and other stories: Ellen Herbert
Survival is something many people struggle with each and every day. Childhood nightmares and memories come haunting our thoughts when adversity strikes as adults and often linger in our hearts and minds forever. Lucy and her sister are about to embark on a trip that would change their lives and perspective on life forever. Parents that are arguing, lives that are being disrupted Falling Women and other stories begins with the story of two sisters Lucy and Vera whose parents decide to send them away with their Uncle and Aunt until their problems can be worked out. But, what happens to these two girls will bind them closer together as the trip proves difficult, the end result almost tragic. Allowing children to swim in a pool unattended is dangerous and what happens when both girls decide to swim in the hotel pool will haunt Vera forever and cement her fear of drowning. Ten-year-olds fears linger on as she relates what happened to her and her sister and some important tips when you see someone that appears to be drowning. Survival, some will do anything to make sure they do and risk their lives for someone they love. The second story is titled When the Forsythia Blooms and focuses on the tragic life of one woman whose husband wants to place her in a mental institution. Marla drinks and is often drunk. Thurman, her husband has it all worked out to put her someplace where she can no longer do harm to herself or be in his way. But, Thurman’s untimely death would change things radically for Marla and her close friend and maid Olivia would be there every step of the way to help her survive the evils she inflicts on herself. Life can create many obstacles but when we cause them ourselves who is to blame?
As we hear Marla’s voice and learn more about her life we realize that when Thurman died she made some drastic changes in her appearance and her life. The author allows the reader to hear Marla’s thoughts about her early life with Thurman, the funeral and her new lease on life. A new man in her life and she begins to flourish. But, when the final decision is made as to whether to start a new life with him you will be surprised at what Marla does as her faithful and true friend Olivia stands by her side.
Higher Ed is an interesting story that focuses on a family where the father does not want his children to go to college. Two sons that disappointed him and a daughter that was accepted to Medical School on the promise that she would land a rich man. When things do not turn out, as he wants her mother creates an illusion to keep him silent. Just how this plays out and will her father agree to pay for the rest of her education you won’t learn until you read Higher Ed. An ending you won’t believe and a mother who you will admire and much more. Just what does Luella do to make sure her daughter becomes a doctor? Just how does her plan help her too? This story you have to read for yourself and find out just how far a mother will go for her child. The Calling and Jazzland are the next two stories followed by The Yellow Sneakers. Braxton, North Carolina might be a fictional town the people whose voices you hear in each of these stories are no different than the ones in the cities or towns where you live. As Marla fights were way to the top and rids herself of being an alcoholic and another story is told about Vietnam and Iraq. The people living here fight the same demons and have the same nightmares we all do and struggle to live each day just to survive or find their way back to families with the help of some good friends and family members.
A mother just wants to reconnect with her son after placing him in foster care. Spending time with him becomes difficult as Danny withdraws more, seems to recent having his mother around and ignores her when she comes to spend time with him. An evening out where she takes him to a basketball game and feels out of place. Imagine your mother wearing bright yellow sneakers to attend a game with your favorite team playing and still not wanting to be seen with her. A foster family that adores him and that he adores. A better life than she can give him Lisa is not formally estranged from her son but it seems like it. Entering the stadium and handing over her tickets she is stopped by someone at the gate. Unsure of why she is surprised to be asked to participate in a shooting contest for prizes and one thousand dollars to the winner. Not wanting to embarrass her son but with some encouragement from him she agrees. But, the events of the game do not bring her any closer to Danny and one simple act of kindness does not bring them any closer. Placing him in foster care was meant to give him a better life and education than he would have living with her. Working for Verizon was good but Lisa still wanted more of a relationship with Danny. When her turn comes to shoot you won’t believe what happens and you need to find out what Danny does. Sometimes the simplest things and one simple act can change things for two people.
Falling Women is the signature story in this outstanding collection of short stories. Two sisters Fran and ML close at one time and almost inseparable but life takes its toll on both of them and one wrong doing or mistake will not only tear them apart but ostracize one sister in the eyes of the town of Braxton. Braxton is a cold and hard place to live. Gossip often overtakes truths and people are judged by their actions, monetary status and morals. As we meet the two sisters we learn that both have high hopes of going to college but need to work and get extra money in order to afford the tuition. Losing their mother at an early age and with their father working two jobs to support them, these girls are sheltered in some respects but not in others. Both girls are often called upon to babysit. ML handles the job one way but Fran seems to lift or take things home that interests her to share with ML. Books, love letters and other written things are what she pilfers and then returns. But, when she lifts a book that she finds under the bed of the new head of the bank and his wife catches her placing it in the pile of children’s books no one trusts her anymore and she is banned from sitting with any child in Braxton. Two sisters close, loyal living in the same house yet different. Braxton is an unforgiving town and this one misshape or mistake made her town pariah. Then, something changes it all as she gets a job in the library and befriends the head librarian. Fran goes to college and graduates and then returns home to find out that her sister is having an affair with Mr. Rose the same man whose wife caught her with the porn book. But, sometimes things change when you least expect them to and Mrs. Bledsoe requests that Fran sit for her and that’s when she meets Oliver. Two wandering children finding their way outside when she’s not looking and she meets who she thinks is the man of her dreams a soldier returning from Vietnam who is the son of a dignitary and she marries him putting her up on a huge pedestal in the eyes of the town. But, like the title says: Falling Women and they do sink or fall down as Oliver and Fran part ways when he finds someone else and the town drops her down to a lower status and ML is considered a harlot you might say as she marries this man whose family would rather not know her. The Hurdlers and the Prodigal Pirates are the next two stories followed by the Goalkeepers. Parents sometimes think that what they do will have no effect on their children. Kevin is a young boy who is smart and is living with his Aunt Mimi. His mother Lydia left him three years before. As the author allows the reader to briefly get to know Lydia you wonder why she would ever leave this amazing young man. Wanting to learn more about goalkeeping his aunt makes sure that she gets him the books needed. Soccer is his game and he and his team have a special game that weekend. Added in is his hope of having his aunt adopt him if the can find his mother. When she is found she makes an appearance at the game where Kevin is playing goalie during the second half. What she does and why she decides to let his aunt adopt him or not you have to learn for yourself as Lydia says there are two sides to every story but you decide whether this is a happy ending or end for yourself after you read it. Imagine the young cheerleaders and imagine a mayor who decides to run off with one. The entire collection is unique with characters that will either endear you to them or make you wonder how they manage to survive another day. An alcoholic woman has to find her way out of drinking and bonding with those in the A.S.A.P group who kept her secret meet Sasha and read the story and learn more. But sometimes things that happen in the past come full circle in the present as we once again meet Vera as an adult. Vera almost drowns when she was ten and saved her sister’s Lucy’s life in story one. As her son Jake wants to join the swim team memories of the past and fear instills Vera. His father his ally who signs him up for the team even though Vera is afraid. Her fears would abound as he became better and stronger as she watched each meet and her fears melted away until the final one. Thinking he was in trouble what happens will either endear you to Vera or make you wonder if she will ever let go of her own fears. What happens next you have to read for yourself and the bond between mother and son you decide after reading the ending?
Twelve stories of survival, hope, despair, love, loyalty and many of life’s lessons that we all can learn.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
Let’s give this book: FIVE GOLD STARS