Up on the Roof and Other Short Stories by Judy Ann Davis

ROOF
Up on the Roof and Other Short Stories by Judy Ann Davis
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Holiday
Length: Full Length (203 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Up on the Roof and Other Short Stories” is a unique collection of nineteen humorous and serious short stories that explores the lives and relationships of the young and old.

A grizzled, old farmer, Pop, climbs up on his farmhouse roof to meditate, check his chimney and antenna, and ends up talking to God on his portable phone in “Up on the Roof”.

In “Bald Revelations,” Maureen is convinced her husband of twenty years is planning to leave her when he purchases ten new pairs of black socks and starts singing Beach Boy songs.

Greta Nielsen of Inuit heritage is searching for an amulet to remind herself of home, but her money-conscious boyfriend keeps thwarting her efforts in “The Amulet”.

Storyteller Judy Ann Davis weaves her award-winning tales to make her readers laugh, maybe cry, but always able to relate to the unique characters and the dilemmas they encounter.

There’s more to thriving in a small town than might first meet the eye.

Just when I thought I knew where Ms. Davis is headed with certain plots she steers it into entirely new directions. The appeal of this book lays in her ability to transform even the most ordinary experience into something special.

“Up On the Roof” is a good introduction to this collection. David’s father, Henry, keeps climbing onto the roof in order to have conversations with God. The problem is that Henry isn’t as young as he used to be, and David and the rest of the family are genuinely concerned about the patriarch’s safety during these conversations. The characterization in this tale is wonderful, especially when it comes to how the younger family members relate to one another as they attempt to figure out how to get Henry back on solid land.While I found the conclusion a little hard to believe due to how quickly it came together and how certain characters reacted to it, the final scene did provide a sense of closure for questions that were asked earlier on.

There were some stories that I had trouble understanding. “The Amulet” begins with a young woman on a road trip with her boyfriend that makes a stopover at a flea market. I liked Greta’s flashbacks to her childhood, but I had trouble connecting those experiences to her current life. She seems conflicted about the parts of her heritage that she wants to hold onto, and I never knew how her mind would change on the topic from one scene to the next. The premise was intriguing, but the ending never tied up all of the loose ends from earlier on in the plot. This pattern was repeated in several other tales and it is the reason why I gave this anthology a 3 star rating.

In “Holiday Bonding” Raymond Harper and his wife Celeste are celebrating their first Christmas with their four young adult children. Raymond wants to recapture the magic and beloved traditions of previous holidays, but coordinating the schedules of so many adults is difficult. It isn’t easy for anyone to readjust interpersonal boundaries as children become adults, and Ms. Davis captures the growing pains of this experience quite well. I especially enjoyed the conversations between Raymond and Celeste in the first scene because of how much it reveals about their relationship now that they are empty nesters.

Up on the Roof and Other Short Stories is a solid collection of contemporary and historical mainstream fiction. It’s a good choice for anyone who likes reading about life in small, rural communities as Ms. Davis’ snapshots of their subcultures are quite well done.

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