Monday, May 7, 2018

Touring Florida

Despite my reservations about short stories -- they're too much, too soon for my taste -- N.M. Kelby's slim volume A Travel Guide for Reckless Hearts drew me in. By the end I was thoroughly enjoying her take on the uniqueness that is Florida.

Kelby has a nice ear and seems to have done her research and/or put her growing up time in Florida to good use. These stories are infused with Florida flavor, but Kelby manages to avoid cramming in too many quirky details, striking a healthy balance. Her ability to hold back just a little also gives her characters the sheen of authenticity, where just one more unusual attribute might have shone false.

And so we have Nordan and Sara, who like each other but aren't quite sure they want to have an affair. We have the uncomfortable daughter of an eccentric widowed mother who's hell-bent on jettisoning her past life for a new one in Florida, with a new beau. We have Bill, a truck driver who's in love -- maybe -- with a former Weeki Wachee mermaid who's dangerous or crazy or a good bit of both. We have Mason, an older lady who spends a lot of time at the airport without ever getting on a plane, rebooking her ticket to Chicago again and again. And so on.

Very engaging, very well written, very Florida.


Sometimes at night, they sit on the steps of his house, a tiny two bedroom painted the color of a peach left too long on the branch. Bill's head on her lap, she tells him the legends of mermaids. For example, how in Ireland they're called "Selkies" and could be either a seal or a woman--though not both at the same time.

"They're addicted to love, you know," she said. "They sneak onshore, shed their seal skins, take on as many lovers as they can. When they're done with 'em, they drown 'em."

"I'll make a note of that," Bill laughed.

When they were together, he laughed all the time. And so did she. He liked to hear her voice, the calliope of its music. Liked to watch her hair trail down her back in the moonlight. He could listen to her for hours. And did. But now he wants answers. Things have gotten out of hand. 

Note: This book counts toward the Color Coded Reading Challenge (yellow) and the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018

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