Author: Maureen Sherbondy
ISBN: 978-159948-186-9

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The Slow Vanishing is a collection of short stories that range from a few paragraphs to several pages in length. They all carry a theme that is only apparent after reading several of the tales. Sherbondy is a gifted writer. She can transform the simplest of actions, gazing at stars (in “Eva Beneath the Stars”) into magical and wonderful occurrences. Her gift doesn’t seem to be limited by length, topic nor morbidity of the plot or storyline. In 42 tales of life as currently lived, twisted by her imagination, every opportunity to force you, the reader, to think is maximized and exploited.

The tragic courage of dealing with devastating loss is contrasted between the protagonist and his wife, in “Stolen House.” Sherbondy makes the uncommon sadness that is the life of many into a focused point of self-realization. She reveals how different persons in a single family might cope with traumatic illness.

In “Simcha” she describes everything from a strict contemporary Jewish mother’s viewpoint. The Yiddish expressions and a mixture of sacred and profane considerations take you into Rachel’s mind. The entire story occurs as she is watching her youngest son’s bar mitzvah. Rachel, the narrator of this tale, is on an emotional roller coaster from days of planning and preparation, but also riding another similar roller coaster watching the service. Sherbondy uses flashbacks intermingled with what Rachel is experiencing right now to force the reader into Rachel’s life and emotions. Rachel’s character is fully alive almost from the first word. And she is fully cognizant of everything going on around her while still dwelling on the past as her mind reviews what leads to this bar mitzvah. The interactions she has and had with her other family members in the past blend into what she is watching to form a cohesive whole. The tensions of those interactions and planning bar mitzvahs for her older sons show up in her narration while she is dreading this one speech at this one bar mitzvah. The Jewish quirks are represented most clearly by “…chem, chem, chem…” used for the sound of the clearing of a throat. These and others caught my eye and made a smile flick across my face.

“A Comic Tale” is not what the reader would expect and the outcome is very bleak. I was left with a slight frown and too much thinking about things taken for granted. However, I could not put the book down; not for this melancholy tale, or for any of the others found here.

Even when the tale forces you to face your own reality and the troubles in your life, as in “Punctuation Eliminated,” grammarians, English teachers and their acolytes will not be able to read this without chuckling.

Sherbondy deals with mundane boredom, euthanasia, traumatic health issues, abortion, daily strains and stresses by putting a fresh eye to the idea and a lively imagination to the plot. This collection has me worried that any other books I read by any other author will not meet the standard set by The Slow Vanishing. This is a delicious feast of the writer’s craft. It is highly recommended for any reader. I only hope that there is much more to come from Sherbondy’s pen.

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