Apalachee Review is an attractively designed magazine hailing from Tallahassee, Florida. The editors are Michael Trammell and Jenn Bronson. The quality of work is high across all five genres presented—fiction, poetry, essay, book review, and visual art—with fiction getting a nod as the particular strength of this issue.
A good example of the excellent storytelling in this issue is Coby Hoffman’s short story “California.” Everybody around Louisa Waters is unhappy—her miserably married parents, her cousin and best friend “Toothbrush,” bullied at school as gay—even Louisa herself, trying to make it through her teens in Carson City, Nevada. Things get even unhappier, though, when she finds a matchbook from the Kit Kat Ranch in her father’s jeans and gives it to her mother.
Before long, her parents are in full breakdown mode, and Louisa and Toothbrush are headed out to the Kit Kat. Louisa wants to catch her dad in the act, while Toothbrush, a virgin, wants to get some cred as a heterosexual. This can’t end well, you think, and you’re right. The only ray of hope in this skillful coming-of-age story is that Louisa has the sense to leave the misery behind and catch a bus out of town.
In “Arrangements,” B. A. Varghese puts a new twist on the conflict between romantic love and traditional arranged marriages. It can hurt when romantic love doesn’t work out, Rajiv finds out when cultural gulfs put an end to romance with Neeli. But it can also hurt, this young computer scientist learns, when the woman he has chosen from a photograph turns him down because “she wants to marry a doctor.” In the end, Rajiv reflects that the only sure thing in life is the taste of fried banana chips—”a love both salty and sweet.”
Well written short stories also are included from Jacqueline Doyle, Melissa Slayton, Michaela Burney, M. S. Mendoza, and C. D. Mitchell. Mitchell’s “Healing Waters” offers a new take on the story of Susannah and the Elders—one that will leave you with unexpected sympathy for the elderly, former minister who can’t keep himself from sneaking up and looking.
My favorites among the essays were Ernie Quatrani’s “The Catch,” in which the author and his heroin-addicted son approach a tentative reconciliation through two hundred tosses of a baseball, plus a dash of humor; and Irene O’Garden’s “The Birthing Tent,” a sharply observed visit to a county fair attraction where people take their children to watch the blood, struggle, beauty—and sometimes death—of animals giving birth. Other essays making the cut for the magazine’s editors come from Cassandra Kircher, Janet Yoder, Paul Laffan, Chris Kite and Katherine Riegel.
A selection of poems, nicely mixed between lined and prose, rounds out the issue. Keep an eye out for the work of Stephanie Lovegrove, whose “Speaking of Apples” reflects on how regional accents offer a way to put down roots in a new place, and Karen Eileen Sisk, whose “Full Nude” and “Partial Nude” deal with emerging sexuality in fresh language and insight. Kudos also to Michelle Myers, whose three poems mark her very first publication. Other capable poets represented here are Doug Cox, Matthew Gilbert, Peter Huggins, Caroline Klocksiem, Whitney Mackman, Jeff Newberry, and Michele Santamaria.