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Nail and Other Stories
by Laura Hird

reviewed by J.M. Frank

     Laura Hird is not big on happy endings.  Nor is she big on happy middles or beginnings.  But if you enjoy looking at the ugly underside of humanity, and are maybe even able to laugh at what you see, this is a great collection of stories to read.

     Hird shows an impressive range in this collection.  Although they are all dark, each piece has its own unique perspective and story to tell.  The perspectives are often quite unusual, ranging from serial killers to innocent children, with everything in between.  One particular favorite of mine is told from the perspective of an unusually savvy twelve year-old with a narrative style reminiscent of a Scottish Holden Caulfield.  Hird has a particular gift at presenting the perspective of women on the edge.  The title story, "Nail", is a chilling portrayal of a controlling, neurotic woman who is unraveling.

     The stories are primarily told in deadpan style, with the characters telling their story quietly yet powerfully.  This is part of the fun of these pieces.  Hird also injects a heavy dose of irony into her work.  The stories are written with intelligence and subtlety, with the reader often knowing more than the narrator.

     Some of these stories are so vivid and disturbing that they are actually quite difficult to read.  Two in particular, though masterfully done, should not be read by the faint of heart.  But readers who persist will be rewarded with stories that are each haunting, moving, and beautiful in their own way.

John Irving - A Widow for One Year

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Also available on audio cassette

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