A review for Review Forward:
My Mother Was An Upright Piano is a collection of flash fictions, most of them shorter than one thousand words.
The title is apt since many of the stories are about family relationships, often mothers and daughters. The mother-daughter stories are very personal, intimate, honest and touching, such as The Lion and the Meteorite Can Never Touch You and Trams and Pies.
Hershman is an expert in describing family relations and she does it needing no more than a few hundred words (Under the Tree, The Family, My Mother Was An Upright Piano). These are small stories with a big impact.
I also loved the stories about sisters in Ankle Socks and Hair in Bunches and of best friends in Graveside.
Some of the stories in this collection are deliciously surreal, such as Like Owls, Tiny Red Heart and In Triplicate.
Others are satirical and darkly funny. I enjoyed the social satire of the opening story The Google 250 and Underground, the art criticism in Containing Art, the satire of friendship in Retreating, I Retreated, and the gender stings in The Tragedy of Tragic Men.
Relationships is another theme in the collection, such as the quantum romance in If and the fast forward modern-day fling in At Camden Town He Said He Loved Me.
Some stories made me wish we could have known more about the narrator, such as My Flickering Self. Other stories are so intriguing I would have liked to see more of the aftermath of the events, such as Beam Line. But there is no doubt that Hershman is an expert of the very short story.
The themes in the collection are nicely cohesive and the voice and narrative structure well varied. I’ve had the pleasure of reading many of these stories in their individual publication, but reading them all together for a full impression of the author’s warm voice and deft descriptions, was even better.
About the reviewer:
Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have or will appear in Elimae, SmokeLong, Metazen, decomP, Unstuck, and other literary journals. Her novel, The Empty City, is a story about silence and is reviewed here. Berit’s short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, will be published by firthFORTH Books in late 2012. Find out more at beritellingsen.com.