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Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring
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Springtime on Mars (edition 2008)

by Susan Woodring

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1031,658,180 (4.5)2
Bees swarm. A president is assassinated. A young mother is electrocuted in her own basement. A space shuttle vanishes. One couple is struck by sudden wealth, another by lightning. An older woman obsesses over a bag boy at the local supermarket. People everywhere watch the sky for signs of intelligent life on Mars and covert Russian space missions. The television era begins, and the Vietnam War ends. Ranging from the 1950' to present time, the stories of Springtime on Mars feature characters who grapple with the human extremes of despair and hope, holding faith in both God and science, and in the love and courage of those around them.… (more)
Member:DevourerOfBooks
Title:Springtime on Mars
Authors:Susan Woodring
Info:Press 53 (2008), Paperback, 184 pages
Collections:Uncollected, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, short stories

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Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring

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Susan Woodring’s wonderful book of short stories is a joy to read. They are linked in theme - women growing older and looking back on their lives; loss and hope; the idea of gravity keeping our feet on the ground; searching for meaning somewhere between science and God. All Woodring’s stories take place among ordinary people and families - but they are at the same time people who are extraordinary without realizing it. They could be any one of us. And that perhaps is where these stories gain their power.

Woodring writes with an eye on the small details of life and explores the every day push and pull of relationships. There is sadness mingled in her characters’ lives, but also a twinkle of hope and meaning. I especially liked her female characters - women who still were looking for their dreams.

'I believe: love deep, give marshmallows and other treats to children, and sleep as long and often as you can, but wake early, eat breakfast. I’m sixty-eight years old; I’m not going backward.' -From Morning Again, page 27-

Woodring has had her short stories published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. She is also the author of the novel The Traveling Disease. This collection was published by a small press: Press 53. If you only read one collection of short stories this year, I would recommend this one. Beautifully crafted with a deep sense of American life and what it means to be human, Springtime on Mars will captivate you.

My thanks to Susan Woodring for sending me a signed copy of her book.

Highly recommended. ( )
  writestuff | Jun 29, 2008 |
I was amazed with the variety of stories told in “Springtime.” All of the stories are set approximately between the 1950s and the 1970s and deal with life in middle-income middle America. Some stories are told in first person, others in third, some from the perspective of children, other from adult perspectives. Yet somehow all of the stories seem to have their own, authentic personality, no two sounding alike.

I am not generally a fan of short stories, I often cannot stay interested in a set of characters I know will only be around for 20 pages or so. However, “Springtime on Mars” kept me wanting to see what characters Woodring was going to introduce next. I would recommend “Springtime on Mars” to fans of short stories as well as to those who would like to give short stories a try.

For the rest of the review:
http://devourerofbooks.wordpress.com/2008/06/09/springtime-on-mars-book-review-a... ( )
  DevourerOfBooks | Jun 9, 2008 |
When my kids were very small, I would find myself with little snippets of time, perhaps while waiting at the pediatrician’s office, or watching a toddler gymnastics class, or while the kids were napping. I found I could read short stories in a single sitting, and there was something really satisfying about that, unlike a novel, where it might be days until my next opportunity to sit down with my book, and I would need to go back and reread to figure out where I was.

Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring is a short story collection filled with intensely personal domestic situations of quiet desperation. There are 11 stories, set in the 1950’s until the present day, loosely connected by recurrent themes of science and technology, marriage and relationships, love and loss.
Charming, deceptively simple, and utterly American, many of these tales depict the country at the brink of change and huge scientific advances. Others show the struggle between faith in God and faith in science. Ranging from the introduction of the television into our living rooms, to the Kennedy assassination, to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, Springtime on Mars holds up a mirror and shows us not only who we were, but who we are.

In Zenith, 1954, Reverend Joe and his wife Marianne, pregnant with twins, are given a welcoming gift by their congregation:

“I knew Frank did not hold to the elders’ decision to gift us with a television set, a worthless diversion that not only inspired rampant idleness, but also one that was relatively new- the whole thing could turn out to be nothing more than a Hollywood fad.”

Woodring breathes life into her characters so quickly- within a few short paragraphs you fully grasp who they are. In the story Inertia, Lizzie’s mother sends her to the basement for a jar of preserves and some beans. She’s reluctant to go, and when she gets there, we understand why:

“The shelves on the far wall held my grandmother’s canning efforts: tomatoes, okra, peppers, and preserves: strawberry, pear, and rhubarb-strawberry. There were empty spaces now, as there always were this late in summer, but since my grandmother had passed away last winter, the holes were unsettling. My mother had promised to keep the garden up, but she’d tended only to her bees…”

Later, Lizzie’s father attempts to explain her mother’s grief over her grandmother to Lizzie this way:

“He assured me my mother’s need to tend to them {the bees} would pass, the same as people’s need to watch the skies for news from other worlds. He taught math at the junior college and this seemed to give him an insight into why people believed what they believed. It’s all, he said, an irrational desire to control the uncontrollable. I wanted him to think I had a scientific mind like his, so I nodded and told him I understood, though I didn’t.”

I was perhaps most touched and completely caught off guard by the story Beautiful, in which a father is staying in a hotel, apart from his family, on an extended business trip. His wife and daughters come down for a visit, but there are huge walls of silence and misunderstanding. He realizes his 13 year old didn’t want to make the trip; she seems embarrassed and unsure of how to act around her dad. He then remembers how it used to be:

“When she was little, though, she used to cup his face in her hands and draw it very close to her own. Listen, she would say. There’s a crisis on planet Gimbel and we have to go there now. “

Throughout that story, I was rooting for the dad so much. I kept thinking, Do something! You’re going to lose your family! The relief I felt when he finally took some action to connect with his kids is hard to describe. I got so choked up and was surprised at how much it affected me.

Susan Woodring has a unique voice and a disarming style. Many short story collections are woefully uneven, but that is not the case here. I found real moments of charm and humor in every single story. I enjoyed this book so much and enthusiastically recommend it. ( )
  LisaMM | May 17, 2008 |
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Bees swarm. A president is assassinated. A young mother is electrocuted in her own basement. A space shuttle vanishes. One couple is struck by sudden wealth, another by lightning. An older woman obsesses over a bag boy at the local supermarket. People everywhere watch the sky for signs of intelligent life on Mars and covert Russian space missions. The television era begins, and the Vietnam War ends. Ranging from the 1950' to present time, the stories of Springtime on Mars feature characters who grapple with the human extremes of despair and hope, holding faith in both God and science, and in the love and courage of those around them.

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Bees swarm. A president is assassinated. A young mother is electrocuted in her own basement. A space shuttle vanishes. One couple is struck by sudden wealth, another by lightning. An older woman obsesses over a bag boy at the local supermarket. People everywhere watch the sky for signs of intelligent life on Mars and covert Russian space missions. The television era begins, and the Vietnam War ends.



Ranging from the 1950s to present time, the stories of Springtime on Mars feature characters who grapple with the human extremes of despair and hope, holding faith in both God and science, and in the love and courage of those around them.
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