Jeri Walker-Bickett says in her introduction to her collection of short stories Such is Life that the stories “reflect the attitude that sometimes stuff simply happens, and rather than reflect on it endlessly, there are times a person needs to accept things and move on. I’m drawn to characters who are a little down on their luck, who are struggling to get through the day but who still move on.”
Jeri also acknowledges that she is writing in the mode of literary realism that she studied at Boise State University under Mitch Wieland, and that four of the five stories bear the mark of his tutelage.
It’s helpful to identify the tenets of ‘literary realism” as they apply here. Stories in this mode are often about everyday folks doing everyday things, single human beings who must learn, grow and change their worlds—or be held responsible for failing to do these things, according to Wikipedia. Realism celebrates the individual oftentimes struggling with some moral issue, hopefully to arrive at an important moral victory. American realism can equate to what we call “local color”; recording the grit and the true reality. It’s about modernism and what it means to be in the present.
Pretty Girl and Leaving Big Sky are set in rural, small town Montana which for the central characters in each story is a situation that makes for teen-age angst and boredom that they try to escape with sex and marijuana. For Love of Dog portrays the struggle a woman has in dealing with the problem of her aggressive dog which for her may be a moral issue. River Walk tells the story of a woman trapped by mental illness. These four stories would seem to be the ones the author says bear the marks of Mitch Wieland’s creative writing tutelage. Encircled by these four stories is Not Terribly Important a story clearly based on the author’s personal life. It tells of a big city teacher who has moved to a small town that is highly influenced by the the principles of Mormonism. She laments that “teaching shouldn’t have to be a lie” , and refuses to compromise her calling to write.
The writing in the collection is a vivid, no holds barred recitation of situations that in their way are suffocating to the central characters; the tone is decidedly dark. You close the book with the feeling that this territory is a place you would like to leave. But in the spirit of literary realism, you are pleased that you took the time to expose yourself to this skillful, professional depiction of local color.
Interesting material on the subject of literary realism : http://faculty.bucks.edu/docarmos/RealismNaturalism.html
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