The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons

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    • Abstract:
      Winner of the 2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award, Heather A. Slomski's debut story collection takes loss as its primary subject and holds it up to the light. In prose spare and daring, poised yet startling, these stories take shape in reality, but reality, they sometimes show us, is not a separate realm from the fantastic or the surreal. Two couples meet for dinner to acknowledge an affair. A mannequin recalls a lover and the life she mysteriously lost. Two girls observe a young widow's grief through a café window. A man's hat is as discerning as Cinderella's shoe. In the fifteen stories that comprise this collection—some short as breaths, two of them novelettes—Slomski writes with a keen eye about relationships. About the desires that pull us together and the betrayals that push us apart. About jealousy, obsession, loneliness and regret—the byproducts of loving someone that keep us awake at night. The characters in these stories share meals, drink wine, buy furniture and art. They live domestic lives, so often wanting to love someone yet ending up alone. In one story, a woman's fiancé leaves her when she goes to post some mail. In another story, a man can't move past an affair his wife almost had. Another story describes a series of drawings to detail a couple's end. But while loss and heartache pervade these stories, there is also occasional hope. For, as the title story shows us, sometimes a breakup isn't an end at all, but the beginning of your life.
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LJ Reviews 2014 November #1

"We are sitting at a table in a restaurant. The four of us. You. Me. The woman with whom you had an affair. Her boyfriend." So opens the title story of Slomski's 2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award winner, and it's so apt, cutting, and funny that most folks will want to read on. In the remaining stories, all told in brisk yet sympathetic language, Slomski plumbs loneliness and misconnection, as in "Correction," ending with a woman who sits drinking to "block out the mistake I made in leaving him." VERDICT Promising work about contemporary life.

[Page 76]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

PW Reviews 2014 August #4

The characters in this debut story collection from Slomski, winner of the 2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award, may have wandered out of an Edward Hopper painting for all their quiet, lonely dignity. The titular lovers are merely a distraction, sitting one table over from the narrator, who is calmly trying to hold it together through an uncomfortable dinner with her husband and another couple. A woman breaks up with her boyfriend after attending an art gallery opening in "Correction." In "Octaves," an old man is reminded of domestic squabbles at his corner store. Though civility pervades in the 15 stories, some of which are only a page or two in length, all this composure has a dampening effect on the characters. In "Neighbors," we peek behind the curtains to find smart people disagreeing reasonably—Finn, a set designer, is comforted that "he had planned every detail," and only upset because eventually "he'd have to take the set apart, dismantling his flawless, unmarred world." The same could be said for Slomski: she finds a way to get strong and interesting characters in a room together, but it feels like a bit more oxygen should be let in. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC