Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Review: Sweet Home by Carys Bray

Title: Sweet Home
Author: Carys Bray
Publisher: Windmill Books
Pages: 192
Genres: Short Stories

Sweet Home
They say there's no place like home. It's where the heart is...

Meet the little boy who believes in miracles.

Meet the mother who loves to bring babies home from the newborn aisle of her supermarket.

Meet the husband who carves a longed-for baby out of ice as a gift for his wife.

Meet the widow who is reminded of romance whilst standing at the kitchen sink.

In this prize-winning short story collection, Carys Bray weaves together moments of joy, heartache, sadness and unwavering love as told through seventeen very different notions of home.
I haven't read many short story collections but I really enjoyed Sweet Home. There are seventeen different stories, all linked by themes relating to familial relationships and family life behind closed doors. Some of the stories include magical realism to wonderful effect, such as buying babies in the baby aisle at Tesco or making a living baby out of an ice ball in winter and then struggling to keep the baby alive as the weather starts to warm up. My favourite stories in particular were:

Just in case - a woman who has recently lost a baby and the consequences of her grief. A surprisingly dark tale that explores the bizarre places that grief can lead to.

Sweet home - an elderly female foreigner builds a house out of gingerbread and sweets and gets pestered by the locals who dislike her. The gingerbread house is symbolic of the home as something temporary that can be consumed by people or can consume them.

The baby aisle - babies are sold at the supermarket in the baby aisle; returns only accepted on faulty babies and not because they happen to cry too much. Explores the idea of babies being brought into the world with expectations and fulfilling a specific role in a family.

Under covers - teen girls mock an older lady who is pegging her washing outside as she thinks back on her marriage. Ironic that the teen girls should scoff at something that is essentially their future, an older lady pegging washing out on the line.

Love: terms and conditions - a couple takes their children to visit the maternal grandparents. Humorously examines the differences in parenting styles of the parents vs the grandparents.

I would recommend this short story collection as it is an interesting exploration of often dysfunctional family dynamics. Every story touched a nerve within me and I felt so many different emotions as no two stories were alike. Every story highlights the struggles of family life in seventeen quite distinct stories. A brilliant examination of many interpretations of what home means to people, and it's not always bliss.


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