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.