Book Review: Tina Barry’s Mall Flower

Mall FlowerOne of the joys of reading is discovering a new author and immediately falling in love with his or her writing. Such was the case when I heard about Tina Barry’s Mall Flower.

The stories and poetry in this collection are just as much visceral as they are bittersweet images and vignettes of school, broken homes (and lives) and lost souls trying to find meaning in a world that is not always fair and kind. And don’t get me started on the cover! If you can forgive me for saying, the cover rocks!

But it’s what is inside what counts and there’s plenty to move you. I was immediately drawn into the short fiction and poetry in this collection by Ms. Barry’s poignant use of language and imagery. Whether it’s a reference to Bill Murray and Gilda Radner as Emily Litella talking about “all the violins” in movies on Saturday Night Live (which by the way is one of my favorite SNL moments!) in the story “What’s All This” or the terribly painful “Table Talk,” where the protagonist’s mother listens in on a phone conversation about her father’s latest misdeeds—“Mother sits at the dining room table, legs thrust underneath, a filmy nylon nightgown brushing her knees, her calves dry and scratched. I’m stretched out beneath the table watching her feet rub together like another pair of fussing hands”—Barry is nothing short of brilliant with the prose and poetry in this collection. To be sure, these are stories and poems that will stay with you long after you have read them.

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