Monday, May 18, 2009

Fiction Weekly/Patricia O’Donnell/Mary Akers/Short Story Review

Nominating editor: Jason Reynolds

Since launching in July of 2008, Fiction Weekly has published a steady stream of high caliber stories by established and emerging authors. Stories that first appeared in Fiction Weekly have been included in Sundress Publications’ 2008 Best of the Net Anthology and storySouth’s list of Notable Stories Published Online in 2008. We’ve been fortunate to publish award winning authors, and we’re equally proud that almost half of our contributors were first published in our pages.

Fiction Weekly has a simple and singular mission. We’re dedicated to offering readers one new and noteworthy story per week. Our editorial policy is also straightforward. We believe that stories should be judged by their ability to move readers, nothing more and nothing less. As such, we consider stories regardless of genre, and we give each submission the attention it deserves.

Due to the wide variety of fiction we publish, there’s no one story that sums up our tastes or style. That being said, Patricia O’Donnell’s “Gods for Sale” is one of our favorite pieces. The opening paragraph immediately calls to mind classic travel literature, and yet the story is unquestionably of our era. O’Donnell’s writing is layered and nuanced—thoroughly organic. Her eye for detail provides not only crisp imagery of unique settings and characters, but also insight into the story’s protagonist, her history, and her current and past dilemmas. “Gods for Sale” is a story worthy of multiple reads. As such, we’re proud to have O’Donnell’s work represent Fiction Weekly on Five Star Literary Stories.

Nominated Short Story:Gods for Sale” - Patricia O'Donnell

Reviewed: by Mary Akers

Patricia O’Donnell’s short story, "Gods for Sale," takes a couple celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary into the strangeness of an African game preserve. As the story opens, they are discombobulated, flying into their final destination as “Americans, their eyes wide, still dazed after two days in Cape Town from hurtling to the other side of the world, from being upside down.” The wife, Elizabeth, stays unsettled as the trip unfolds. Although excited to visit the land she has long imagined, she finds herself uneasy with the racial and economic divide she senses there, face-to-face with the stark differences between the haves and the have-nots.

“The country of South Africa was a huge mystery to her, its squalid miles of tin shacks leaning together in the dust, donkeys pulling wrecked cars on flat wagons on the freeway, not far from elegant houses, Cape Dutch style, sweeping wineries, and estates behind high fences topped with electric wire. Everything was all jumbled together in this country. Here they were protected by sliding electronic gates from the locals, and by electrified fences from the animals, in a spacious enclosure where they could imagine they were close to nature.”

She is also beset by memories of the recent loss of her mother and an attraction to a handsome younger man she’d served on jury duty with. As the insomnia of a strange new place plagues her nights and the turmoil of her thoughts consumes her days, she turns a critical eye to her husband, reexamining their marital relationship in the light of the harsh African sun. When their rental vehicle malfunctions on a trip into the bush, and they end up stranded and alone as dark descends with the wild animals congregating, she realizes she’s been delivered the perfect point of decision.

The observations and sensory details in "Gods for Sale" are lush and perfect, drawing the reader simultaneously into the foreign world of Africa and the all too familiar world of the fickle human mind.

Reviewer's Bio:

Mary Akers is the author of Women Up On Blocks, a short story collection that explores the price women pay when they allow the roles of wife, mother, daughter or lover to define them. She co-authored the non-fiction book Radical Gratitude: And Other Life Lessons Learned in Siberia (Allen & Unwin, Australia) and also titled The Greatest Gift: Lessons Learned in Exile in Siberia (Simon & Schuster UK/Canada).

Her fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Fiddlehead, Ars Medica, Brevity and other journals. She has work in the anthologies The Maternal Is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change and Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform.

Akers also co-founded the Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology, a study abroad marine ecology program located in Roseau, Dominica. She enjoys snorkeling, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, and snowshoeing. Although raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia—which she will always call home—she currently lives in Western New York.

Thanks for visiting Five Star Literary Stories and reading about this short story.


Bev Jackson said...

Lovely story and provocative review. (I did them in reverse). It goes to show that the right review can push a reader to the material. Mary Akers has that talent among the many others of her own writing!

Pat O'Donnell said...

I appreciate Mary's review. It points to what is essential about the story, and that helps me see it in a new light. I'm also grateful for the opportunity to have my work appear here.

Ride Between the Stars said...

Thanks, Pat.

I enjoyed your story and Mary's review.

I love hanging out with talented writers.