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Every once in a while I read a story that, when finished, leaves me sitting down and saying, “wow.” There are some points in “Little Burst” that really make me feel stunned into a satiated silence similar to how you feel after eating the third plate of dinner on Thanksgiving. Stuffed. Satisfied. Sleepy. Happy.

The first comment is one on the collection — novel — no, collection of stories as a whole. “Little Burst” is the first story from inside of Olive’s head. Oddly enough, the stories leading up to this point serve as an introduction to her character. “Pharmacy” shows one side, “Incoming Tide” another, and “The Piano Player” provides a little insight into her character as well. But “Little Burst” is third person limited omniscient from Olive’s perspective. Until this point the collection of stories has centered around her but never been about her. “Little Burst” is the gateway into Olive that we’ve been needing. “Pharmacy” had let us know that she’d been struggling, as most humans do. But “Little Burst” takes away the distance that the other stories had provided. The perspective in this story is extremely close, almost as if it were to be first person. The other stories had created an outline and a structure for Olive’s character but until “Little Burst” readers are unable to fill in many of the gaps. It’s the transition from acknowledging Olive to knowing Olive.

And I’m pleased to say I like her, with all of her sadness, desperation, and fear. This story isn’t about her son though his marriage is what happens in this story. This story is about Olive — her low self esteem, her need to make others feel the same. It’s also about her lying and about her parenting techniques that are grounded upon her own feelings and experiences. The story is about Olive. It’s about what makes Olive happy and what pains her greatly. The book may be about Olive. I don’t know, yet.

 

Olive tucks her handbag under her large arm, pressing it to her as she walks toward the door. It does not help much, but it does help some, to know that at least there will be moments now when Suzanne will doubt herself. Calling out, “Christopher, are you sure you haven’t seen my shoe?” Looking through the laundry, her underwear drawer, some anxiety will flutter through her. “I must be losing my mind, I can’t keep track of anything… And my God, what happened to my sweater?” And she would never know, would she? Because who would mark a sweater, steal a bra, take one shoe? (74)

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