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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Conjugations of the Verb To Be by Glen Chamberlain

Conjugations of the Verb To Be by Glen Chamberlain
Delphinium Books
ISBN: 978-1883285500
Published Sept 6, 2011
Trade paperback, 208 pages

This is a collection of short stories that explores the themes of living, loving and dying—hence the catchy title. Chamberlain's writing is beautiful, making even the mundane sound inspiring. I felt like every sentence held meaning, and I sometimes re-read certain passages which begged to be scrutinized and appreciated. This doesn't mean that I cared or liked every character or situation in the stories but they certainly made me reflect.

All the stories take place in Buckle, Montana, a setting that is alive and as much a character in every story as those the author introduces to us, whether a teenager who shares a mother/daughter moment that I loved in Amongst the Fields or a hired hand whose magical view of horse birthing was lovely to read in Horse Thieves:

It's that first stolen breath, a big, startled one, the biggest one ever because the baby's lungs have never had anything in them before. Nothing at all. After that, all the other breaths will be married up in pairs of in and out, except that last one where the body comes full circle and gives back what it took when it was born, and nothing's telling it to, but everything is.” p.97

Stacking, one of my favorites,  kept me turning the pages fast, a tale that expanded three generations. I got a few chuckles out of Conjugations of the Verb To Be--the introspective thoughts of an adjunct professor who teaches composition at the university, contemplating her life as she does a crossword puzzle. It made me wonder how much of it was from the author's own experience of teaching. Off the Road: or the Perfect Curve Unfound was another that I liked because the main character grew by the end of the story, and her experience made her a better person. With most of the stories, the reader is never sure where the author will take him.

The stories are filled with descriptions of the Montana land and ranch life, making the author's love for this state obvious. The stories seem to touch each other even though only a few characters appear in more than one story. Most of all, I was taken by the author's imagination as she spun stories that were different, especially Twin Bridges, Montana about the orphans who find something unexpected under the pond's ice. The last story had a sadness to it, and I was sorry the collection ended this way, but it seemed to bring things full circle. 

This is a collection of interesting stories, with thought-provoking metaphors and a style of writing that is reflective, lyrical and rich. A reader cannot rush through it but is compelled to savor the words as they unfold into magnetic stories. 

Note: This book is rated P = Profanity for 2 f-words, a few religious expletives and a some crude words.
I will count this book toward the following challenges: Short Stories Reading Challenge

Reviewed by Laura

Disclosure: Thanks to Kimberly Sorren from Delphinium Books for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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