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The Ice Cream Vendor's Song

The Ice Cream Vendor's Song
Book Review by Jeane Slone

The Ice Cream Vendor's Song - Laura McHale Holland - Jeane Slone

The Ice Cream Vendor’s Song by Laura McHale Holland is a thoroughly original collection of flash fiction that reminds me a bit of eating potato chips. You can devour each storyquickly, but it’s hard to stop reading once you begin. The collection is also like fine wine because the stories can be savored for their lyrical language and multiple layers of meaning. Unlike food and drink, though, these stories can be consumed again and again, and you don’t have to worry about weight gain or hangovers.

In case you’re new to flash fiction, the term describes very short stories that seem almost as quick as a flash of lightning. And just like lightning, Laura McHale Holland’s stories are powerful. They are also, in turn, laugh-out-loud funny, disturbing, vexing, inspiring and everything in between. Expect depth, challenges, and an eerie enchantment.

Ideally, flash fiction omits unessential elements, yet presents a complete experience for the reader. And on this level, the author of this collection succeeds very well. Her stories pull us into worlds that can appear much like the everyday world, but something akin to magical realism reigns, so characters and events are rarely what they initially appear to be.

Some of the stories, “Still There”, for example, have endings that are so unexpected you might have to catch your breath when you read the last line. Some stories, such as “Rolling Toward Her Feet” and “Drifting,” both of which have to do with romantic relationships, have much in common with prose poems, so if you like a touch of musicality and rhythm in your prose, you’re likely to especially enjoy these. The stories are all rich in detail, and some characterizations are so strong, the protagonists practically seem to jump off the page. I was particularly drawn to the central characters in “I’ll Have to Tell Him” and “When She Wakes Up.” Both are females with strange tales to tell.

In this slim volume, McHale Holland conveys wisdom, depression, humor, romance, despair, elation, and a host of other emotions. As a whole, the collection is compelling, thought provoking, unsettling and definitely worth a read. I’d like to see this author try her hand at a full-length novel, but then, keeping things short and far from sweet might be her cup of tea.