If you are to read only one short story collection this year make sure it’s Sea Lovers by Valerie Martin. It’s one of those collections where it’s not filled with stuff that literally should never have seen the light of day. It’s a collection of twelve stories that make you want to discover Valerie Martin if you have not already done so.
Ms. Martin is so modest that she criticizes the first section of the stories saying she was young when she wrote them. They are still great stories so there is nothing to apologize about. They are four stories called: “Spats”, “The Cat in the Attic”, “The Consolation of Nature” and “The Freeze”. They all have animal themes to them as do most of her stories in this collection. Maybe because I’m an animal lover is why I liked this book so much. But sadly most of the animals in these stories suffer unfortunate fates due to human beings and their foibles about themselves and love itself.
“Spats” is about a divorced couple and the fate of their dogs. They are the husbands dogs and the ex-wife has custody of them because the building he lives in can’t have dogs so Spats one of the dogs, is used as weapon. “The Cat in The Attic” is about a cat that is loved more than her partner and when the cat goes missing things don’t turn out pretty for anyone. “The Consolation of Nature” is about a rat and it will have you hiding under the covers the next time you see one these critters. Finally in this part of the collection is The Freeze and it’s another story about a cat that truly leaves you with a sense that we need to listen to the world around us and not be afraid of it.
The next section is about artists and their works. Some are frustrated and others are successful in their craft. “His Blue Period” is about an artist named Anspach and the trail of personal destruction he leaves behind his success. The next story “Beethoven” deals with an artist who is facing whether he truly has what it takes to be a successful artist. It’s a story most artists can relate to. The next story “The Unfinished Novel” is the longest in the collection and deals with a successful author who goes back into his past to discover a woman he knew from college and who was more praised as an author than he was but has yet to publish a novel. He discovers that she has written a tome and he decides what the fate of her novel is. A very what would you do story. The last story in this section titled “The Open Door” is about two women choosing what the journey should be for them after a potential scandal.
The closing stories in this stellar collection deals with a woman going though the change in “The Change”, A mermaid who deals with the trauma of sea battles, sea lovers, and finally a fisherman in “Sea Lovers”, a story about a woman who has a baby by a mysterious man and the fate of it, and finally a terrific story called “Et in Acadiana Ego” about a woman who falls in love with a half man half horse creature. It’s one of my favorites of the dozen stories collected here. It may not be your favorite but I guarantee you will find so many of these wonderful stories haunting you for days and you’ll be singing it praises like a mermaid sings to it’s victims. Read me, read me, read me.