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Review: Forgetting English

Forgetting English
By Midge Raymond
Eastern Washington University Press
November 2008
152pp

Here is the blurb from the publisher:

In this collection of award-winning stories, Midge Raymond explores the indelible imprint of home upon identity, and the ways in which new frontiers both defy and confirm it. The characters that inhabit these stories travel for business and for pleasure, out of duty and in search of freedom – and each comes face-to-face with the unexpected. From a biologist navigating the icy moonscape of Antarctica to a businesswoman seeking refuge in the South Pacific, the characters in these stories are in search of escape, but once stripped of their daily lives, they are confronted with who they actually are, and who they are meant to be.

The Short of It:

This collection of stories is a restorative tonic for the soul.

The Rest of It:

I am not a fan of short fiction but every now and then I give it a try and usually I am disappointed. That said, I was not disappointed by Forgetting English. In fact, I was so mesmerized by the beauty of the writing that I spent an entire morning on the couch enjoying it. From one story to the next, I found myself completely and utterly absorbed. Each story is so different and yet there are common themes…insecurity, yearning, shame and the need to escape.

My favorite story happens to be the book’s title. Forgetting English and is about a teacher by the name of Paige that has taken a teaching job in Taipei in order to escape her life back home. She befriends Jing-wei in an effort to learn Chinese. Both women have secrets and as their stories unfold, we learn how much their friendship means to one another and how flawed the human spirit can be.

I found myself embracing several other stories as well:

Translation Memory (a married couple grieve in their own way after suffering a loss)
The Road to Hana (a married couple struggle with the realization of what they’ve become, or what they’ve always been)
The Ecstatic Cry (researchers in Antarctica, Empire penguins and the need for human contact)

It’s not often that I tell anyone to go out and get a particular book, but this collection is a real treasure. The writing is effortless and natural and each story, although brief, is very satisfying in the end.  This is a great collection to curl-up with. I recommend that you get yourself a copy.

Midge Raymond won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. For more information about the author, click here. I initially read an excerpt and decided that I had to read the collection so if you’d like to read an excerpt, click here.

Source: This copy was sent to me by the author, Midge Raymond.

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