Alyson Foster’s Heart Attack Watch* is a slim book of seven short stories packed with tension. I admired the book very much, so in lieu of a traditional review (always tricky with short story collections), here are five reasons to read Heart Attack Watch:
- The tension ratchets up fast: I like this quality in a short story, which doesn’t have the novel’s luxurious length to play with. All seven of these stories feature disasters of different flavors (a heart attack; a blackout; a mysterious tree plague; an unwanted, possibly nefarious visitor’s arrival), and it is a treat to see what a talented writer can create with those building blocks.
- The settings are varied and interesting: A Hollywood stuntman worries about his longevity in L.A.; in a semi-rural town a bus driver is caught between opposing forces (environmental scientists studying pollution and factory workers fearing for their jobs); on Lake Superior a woman and her husband take their girls to a sand castle competition; in Arkansas, a precocious girl helps her mother run a home for battered women.
- You’re looking for stories about mothers and daughters: “Sand Castles,” “The Place of the Holy,” and “Blackout” investigate the difficult, sometimes devastating love between mothers and daughters; the latter two are the strongest stories in the collection. (And “The Art of Falling” is a touching in its portrayal of a father’s love and admiration for his adult daughter.)
- It’s nuanced and smart: These stories demand work from the reader to make connections and fill in missing pieces. The endings of “Blackout” and “The Theory of Clouds” lingered with me for days.
- You liked God is an Astronaut: If you were a fan of Alyson Foster’s debut novel (2014; review here), you already know how well she can spin a tale of crisis.
What short stories have you been reading lately?
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review.
3 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Read: Heart Attack Watch, by Alyson Foster”
I really enjoyed this collection, too (I still need to put together a post with all the short story collections I’ve read recently!), and was so glad to read something from Alyson Foster after really loving God Is an Astronaut. The first story in the collection REALLY blew me away.
I like this approach to a review.