Corpus Christi, by Bret Anthony Johnston, is a collection of ten short stories exploring the intimacies of human relationships. Each story is set in or around the town of Corpus Christi in Texas, USA. There are crossovers within the tales such that the reader quickly becomes immersed in the setting.
The relationships in each story vary. Some are familial, cross generational; others feature friendship, sometimes lovers. There are accidents, violence, stormy weather and loss. The challenges of living within and without marriage, parenting, and adolescence are explored.
A triptych of tales offer snapshots of the day to day trials of a terminally ill widow being cared for by her adult son. The difficulty of communication is brought into sharp relief.
A good short story must capture the readers attention from the off, have a purposeful plot and satisfying denouement. Each of these tales left me sated. The narrative throughout is steeped in the melancholy of life. When concluded I had to walk away to process what I had just read.
The writing seeps poignancy but avoids sentimentality. Feelings evoked are raw, intense, the rarely acknowledged expressed with piercing clarity. The sparse prose gets under the skin and touches the heart. The trials detailed and the ripples of their effect exquisitely portrayed.
“parents, children and lovers some together and fall apart, bonded and battered by memories of loss that they feel as acutely as physical pain. […] events cut people loose from their regular lives, floating and spiralling away from where we had been the day before.”
A fine collection of stories from an accomplished writer. This is a rewarding read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Two Roads.