He Runs the Moon by Wendy Brandmark

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He Runs the Moon by Wendy Brandmark

Category: Short Stories
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Kate Jones
Reviewed by Kate Jones
Summary: An interesting collection of sometimes strange and disturbing, often mystical and occasionally subversive stories based around a theme of US cities.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 215 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Holland Park Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-19073-20606

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This is the first time I had read any of Wendy Brandmark's fiction, and I was intrigued at the theme of the stories. She sets out writing short stories about different cities in the US: Denver, Bronx, New York, Cambridge and Boston, but also weaves in setting the stories in different eras. So we have a collection of stories ranging from the 1950's to the 1970's.

I found the stories in the collection to have a real mystical feel to them. Take the opening story 'The Denver Ophelia' for example. In the tale, young creative writing students are falling in love or lust with their ageing Professor. The narrator takes to visiting a fairy godmother-like woman in a second hand dress store, where she finds dresses which fit the woman as if created especially for her. 'My Red Mustang', another story which appears in the 'Denver' part of the book, features a young woman who is struggling to part with her unreliable car after her boyfriend leaves for Los Angeles without her. It feels in this atmospheric story as though the Mustang is alive and breathing from the page.

One of my favourite stories, 'The Book Thief' features a young man who works in his friend's bookshop and falls for a young woman who comes in most days to browse. Again, there is an air of mystery about her, and the more the narrator tries to become involved with her, the less sure about everything else he seems. When his friend suggests they start checking customer's bags for a book thief in the store, the narrator's morals are challenged.

One of the strangest stories in the book was 'The Blessing', an unusual take on two young women's coming of age as they meet up in New York to walk around museums. This had a really mystical edge, with one of the friends collapsing in painful bouts of cramp she called 'the Mummies' each time they visited the Egyptian wing of the museum. Whilst it had an interesting potential, I found it quite confusing and it lost me a bit. I wanted more of a climax, an explanation, but it seemed to fizzle out a little at the end.

In the 'Borders of Myself', Brandmark portrays an older narrator than some of the other stories, a man living alone and missing his daughter, who mostly ignores him. Close to the beginning of the story, the man is taken hostage by two young men who rob him. Because they take the photograph of his daughter from his flat, and threaten they will come after her if he ever tells anybody about them, he doesn't report the crime. This then leads to the men visiting him on a regular basis, hiding out at the flat, using it for drugs, and tying him up in the bath. This was a dark tale, and I found it quite unsettling.

A powerful story comes in the shape of 'Genuis', which features two young teenage boys, disenchanted with the world around them. One boy, Bruce, is a bully and the other, John, a loner with a bad stutter who is an easy target. Despite this, it is the bully who tries to befriend the loner, trying to draw him into a march he is attending, to show the other members of his group that he has found a new recruit. John claims he is a Nazi, and there is an eerie sense of discomfort when reading about his thoughts. He manages to rile the therapist he is sent to see and sees this as a victory. Bruce meanwhile ends up getting more than he bargained for. This story felt like it could go on to open out into a larger narrative.

Overall, this is an interesting collection, mystical in places, and with some unusual and varying storylines. I couldn't say that I enjoyed all the stories in there, but there were enough variety to keep my interest, and lovers of the slightly disturbing, more magical realism story might enjoy this collection.

If you liked this, you might like Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

Buy He Runs the Moon by Wendy Brandmark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy He Runs the Moon by Wendy Brandmark at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy He Runs the Moon by Wendy Brandmark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy He Runs the Moon by Wendy Brandmark at Amazon.com.


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