- The Whirlpool: Stories by Laurel Croza
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-77306-032-3 $16.95
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-77306-033-0 $14.95
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5–8
This collection of brief but powerful short stories explores themes of identity, grief, and family. Jasmine’s refusal to reveal her mother and sister’s secret make her the target of school bullies; an old man’s visits to his wife’s grave bring back sad memories for an observant squirrel; a school assignment sheds light on Dani’s older brother’s dreams. There’s nothing significantly surprising in the plots, but Croza beautifully employs the short-story format, placing much of the emotional weight on what is left unsaid and imbuing the tales with a sense of both melancholy and hope. Simple but imagistic prose breathes freshness into everyday scenes, as when Jasmine reveals nothing of her home life to a well-intentioned teacher and thus little, at that point, to the reader: “Not while my English class listened behind me, their fishing nets out, hoping to snare my answer and feed it to the sharks at first lunch.” The undercurrent of feeling without sentimentality will pull readers along, and the brevity of the stories might make them useful as discussion and writing springboards.