I’m not sure what I was expecting when I began reading Chagrin River Review. Perhaps the multicolored cover featuring a light dangling above a spray-painted wall convinced me I was getting into something a little brighter than what I found in this issue’s fiction. While not the sunniest magazine I could’ve chosen, I was left feeling anything but disappointed. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I began reading Chagrin River Review. Perhaps the multicolored cover featuring a light dangling above a spray-painted wall convinced me I was getting into something a little brighter than what I found in this issue’s fiction. While not the sunniest magazine I could’ve chosen, I was left feeling anything but disappointed.
In “Soil,” Beth Konkoski’s main character defies her husband’s desire for her to get an abortion alone—her third he’s paid for but hasn’t been present for. Konkoski’s choice to name the husband Allen and leave the wife nameless was fitting. We see the little ways she and their relationship have been stripped away in this small glimpse of their life together, although the end of the story suggests some hope as she replants a head of cabbage she compares to a baby’s head, the vegetable accidentally left behind by farmers.
Hope doesn’t remain too long, however, when Leah Browning’s piece “Jeopardy” drops readers into her main character’s aunt’s living room. Living with her aunt while looking for a new apartment after a breakup, Sophie earns her keep by running to 7-Eleven at nights to pick up cigarettes and snacks for her at midnight. While in the store the same time as a gunman, Sophie’s point of view trips up, short circuits, and we’re back in her aunt’s living room:
The local news has already started. Sophie is staring at the television. The cat is on her lap.
For just a second, she can’t remember. Is this the memory? Or is this what is happening now, here, tonight? She can see the cigarettes on the shelves behind the cash register. She has to walk past the gunman to get to them. She has to call for help.
An interesting way for the story to unfold, I reread the piece two more times (the first time read with maybe too much urgency—Browning’s foreshadowing had me eager to see what she had in store), each time picking out small details I’d missed the first time.
“Decoration Day” by Bonnie West, features Charlie, a WWI vet in another story a little less than uplifting, but a story I wished were longer. Between Charlie’s spreading cancer, the favoritism he shows to his younger son but doesn’t really get around to addressing in the limited space the story provides, and the Decoration (Memorial) Day parade, I could see this working well as a novella with more time given to each of the issues.
Dan Morey offers a little comedic relief in “The Blessing of the Rod,” a fishing story where maybe they’re not even exaggerating about the size of the walleye the blessed rod reels in. With the good-natured jibes volleyed between nephew and uncle, Morey presents a quick, fun read about an Ohioan pastime.
In poetry, Chagrin River Review provides recordings of some of the poets reading their pieces. Out of the poems with recordings, Sara Marron’s two “Selections from the Long Tu’m” poems were my favorites, particularly the one subtitled “From the Lascivia Mysteries.” Listening to lines fall off her tongue almost has a musical quality, especially lines like:
tastes sweet like
lizard licks last
drops of liquid
off dry desert
Rodd Whelpley’s recording of “My Dad Forgets” is a great listen for different reasons. Speaking of a father with dementia, Whelpley’s voice echoes the solemnity and sadness of his written words. The line “My dad forgets” repeats throughout the poem as if the speaker is reminding himself, reminding us, stuck in a loop as his father forgets he’s told stories he’s telling again, forgets names, forgets that he’s no longer who he used to be: “the slick second baseman, the quarterback, the happy-go-lucky. . . .”
The poetry without the voiceover accompaniment are great as well, including “Why I Never Stop Reading the Internet” by Ricky Garni which almost reads as a disjointed Wikipedia search binge, bouncing from Hera to Chaucer to Wieneroni Casserole, linking topics with fluidity. After the dark start to this issue, Garni’s three pieces of prose poetry granted a welcome respite.
On their About page, Chagrin River Review’s editors say they feature work with Ohio connections, as well as “any poetry and stories featuring original and powerful writing.” So while readers won’t find all sunshine and smiles with this issue, they can rest assured they’ll find work as powerful as promised, with a Fall issue to look forward to around the corner.