Beloit’s annual journal of fiction contains engaging stories with clear prose. Every literary magazine usually has at least one story in which I feel the author’s style detracts from the characters or narrative – one of my biggest pet peeves – but I couldn’t find that fault in any of these stories.
In Gary Fincke’s “Private Things,” Corey is an excellent third-person child narrator; the reader sees both his love and ambivalence toward his agnostic, cancer-ridden, anti-social mother and his ritual-ridden, offering-stealing, pharmacist father. Corey goes from observing and repeating his mother and father to having some of his own insights:
Corey had wanted to pray for his father, but he couldn’t think of any words but the ones from church, somebody else’s. A prayer can’t work, he thought, unless you make up the words yourself. [. . .] All Corey could think of when she said the words was how things must have looked when the whole world was in the dark before God said, “Let there be light.” It was what everybody was afraid of, going back to where they’d come from.
Molly McNett’s “Lazy Jane” is a more playful, surrealistic story in which a housewife, Mary Jean, is sucked back into her hippie past as she cleans her house, then brought back to reality as her small son calls her name: “And this was imperious childhood, the time when the parent exists for you and because of you and through you; there is no other imaginable life.” Taryn Bowe’s complicated story “Glass” uses copious, everyday details to create the world of Nick and Marla, and their child Hannah. On the surface, the family tries to help find a missing girl from school; underneath this surface, Nick, a recovering alcoholic, works to make his family trust him again, simultaneously trying to trust himself: “Trying not to scare Hannah or hurt her nearly breaks him every day, and it’s not something he can keep up. Every minute life feels like a shrinking box, and he feels larger and knocking things over, and the tightening feeling in his chest gets more insistent, insisting that he go.”
I’ve only mentioned a few pieces, but this volume is a good read all the way through, and you may label others as your favorite stories when you pick up a copy.