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We Were Giants by Christopher Bowen

We Were Giants by Christopher Bowen

Reviews, Vol. 7.4, Dec. 2013
Sunnyoutside, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-934513-42-2
Saddle stitched, 30 pp., $12
Review by Cynthia Reeser

This collection of eight flash fiction pieces is layered with nuanced meaning: time passing, friends remembered, birthdays as markers of turning points, now to be cherished. It’s a history of the way things were, and less directly, a reminder of the importance of appreciating what you have while it’s still there, a reminder of the temporality of everything. The stories are memorials of things, people, that have been lost.

In “Her Happy Ending,” the language is steeped in sadness and regret. The language skirts borders, hinting at things:

My little angel turns to me opening her first present. “Dad, how did you know I wanted a baby doll? Does she have makeup and clothes and stuff like mommy does?” I slide from the table rubbing my hand between my eyes and forehead at the kitchen sink a room away. “Mommy,” I whisper.

“The Knocking” tells the story of a woman alone with her child; her mother is gone, someone named Bob is gone, and throughout the story, “God is knocking.” Perhaps, she thinks, it is Bob, but she does not answer the door—not for Bob, not for God. “All Nails and Boards” deals with the loss of a friend. “The Moth Burning” is the story of something elusive, just out of reach, which takes the forms of a wife, of money:

I know how to love and that love is real and Emily knows this and shows this to me every day, my wife. I will never really catch her and would run rampant in circles to find her nightly and daily and if but for the rest of my life.

Similarly, “I Speak Spanish from the Tops of Pyramids” speaks to what is just out of reach—in this case, a language, a better job, a better life.

Bowen captures, in a small space, the many nuances of loss and regret. There is more between the lines than is immediately apparent, and it is this that gives the stories such impact. They are stories that are eminently relatable and poignant.

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