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Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a…

Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail

by Kelly Luce

Other authors: Yuko Shimizu (Illustrator)

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I was turned onto this book at my local bookstore by the store manager who said it had hints of magical realism and was also their bestseller. My interest was piqued. Plus, the author had spent time in Austin at the Michener Center, which I thought was pretty cool. All the short stories had some relation to Japan, whether they were set in Japan or have Japanese characters or characters obsessed with Japanese culture. There were only 10 stories in this small book and I'd break them down into three lengths: micro, shorter, and longer stories. The shortest story was 3 pages; the longest was 26 pages.

Both micro stories were unsatisfying, too short to unfold in any meaningful way besides being impressionistic. Like a skilled painter using a one-inch wide paintbrush on a 2 by 2-inch square canvas, the skilled stroke of each micro story didn't paint much of a scene or story. The writer in me thought, 'Kind of interesting.' The reader in me thought, 'Wish there was more.'

The five shorter stories were hit or miss: two being exceptional, one having a funny premise but lacking some background information about the narrator that made the story feel under baked, and two that were eerie yet lackluster. The story titled Ms. Yamada's Toaster had the funny premise of a toaster that could predict how people would die--soon after many did die in their predicted fashion--then the omniscient toaster with the penchant for predicting someone's mortality suddenly breaks. Pretty funny story idea! The best of these shorter stories, Wisher, was an amazing piece about a gardener who could hear the wishes of the people who tossed coins into the garden fountain. It was poignant, magical, and heartbreaking--all at once.

The longer stories were where the author really shined. Having a larger canvas to build her worlds, the three longest stories were the best of the book: Rooey, Pioneers, and Amorometer. The longer story-length gave the author enough room to explore the themes of these stories: loneliness, relationships, death, repressed sexual feelings, desire, and depression. The author skillfully fleshed out her characters with all the ticks, mannerisms, and personalities of three-dimensional human beings, a hard task to accomplish in short stories. And the author's ability to use imaginative similes didn't go unnoticed. "He scratched his beard. He'd stopped trimming it, and these days it resembled a storm cloud about to burst." Fantastic imagery! In Amorometer, a widowed college professor writes a lovelorn letter to a former female research participant from the 1960s who had the highest score of all the participants in his important study using the Amorometer, a device capable of measuring one's capacity to love. Out of curiosity and loneliness, she agrees to meet him even though she's married. But as powerful as the Amorometer seemed to be to measure one's capacity to love, it couldn't measure one’s capacity to lie, a characteristic which the former female research participant had in spades.

Now, I see this book as a primer for a longer work like the novel Pull Me Under, which I look forward to reading. I wish this small collection of short stories contained more but, if the longer stories in this book are proof, then I look forward to diving into the novel Pull Me Under. Kelly Luce is a fantastic writer! ( )
  scott_semegran | Jan 29, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kelly Luceprimary authorall editionscalculated
Shimizu, YukoIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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