Our Dreams Might Align, by Dana Diehl, is a collection of sixteen short stories and the first book to be released by Splice, a new Birmingham based small press. The collection explores the challenges and complexities of relationships along with their inherent loneliness. Descriptions are rich, often dreamlike. Human life is portrayed as a search for hope beyond what is currently being experienced. Lovers feel conflicted when they realise each desires differing outcomes. Parents and children grow apart as they seek paths the other has no wish to traverse.
Astronauts tells the story of a family dealing with its patriarch’s journey to outer space. The mother is left to cope alone with their son while her husband goes adventuring. She misses him yet adapts to his absence. On his return she must accept that this experience will be the pivotal moment of his life. Her hopes and dreams remain shadowed by his legend.
Burn looks at the relationship between two sisters. The younger had wanted to be just like the elder but has been hurt by a lack of perceived loyalty in the past – care for sisterly feelings. In projecting expectations the younger feels let down and seeks signs of regret in her sibling. It is her own needs that have shaped how she regards her sister’s behaviour.
Swarm tells the story of newly weds who move to a remote ranch straight from their wedding. After the excitement and bustle of preparation, the wife must face a future with a husband whose plans may not readily align with her’s. She is now a girl with a boy, the trajectory of her life, the decision she makes, tied to his needs.
“She felt the slope of her life plateau. Getting married had been so easy, everything moving toward it, marriage the next obvious step, no one asking what happened in the after.”
Another Time offers a variety of alternative endings for the reader to choose from. I enjoyed reading each of these and pondering the directions life can take following an event or decision, often unexpected.
To Date a Time Traveler looks at selfishness in a relationship between two college students. The girl finds the boy interesting and supports his choices and actions, neglecting her friends. It is not long until she realises how little her needs are now being considered as their day to day actions increasingly revolve around him.
The Mother is one of several stories that explores the parent and child relationship, where desired and loved children are born and raised but then gain independence.
“a mother’s body is a house full of rooms that are always being left”
Once He Was a Man takes a wry look at the desire for immortality. A husband buys into a technological promise that his essence will be uploaded into an everlasting beam of light that will travel through infinity. His wife is more sceptical.
“What does a beam of light do all day?”
Going Mean looks at another marriage where the wife feels shackled by her husband’s expectations of her compliance. She looks to the dangerous forest behind their home and ponders the trade-off between safety and freedom.
Loneliness within relationships is a recurring theme. Individuals project their hopes onto loved ones. Expectations of other’s behaviour leads to disillusionment. For reasons unknown there are numerous references to being within the belly of a whale, including one story in which brothers end up there. Wild creatures feature in many of the tales.
The writing is fluid and engaging. Although somewhat bleak, the relationships depicted are recognisable and cleverly presented. These imaginative portrayals were a pleasure to read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Splice – do check out their work: