Published by Windmill
Publication date 25 February 2016
Source – review copy
“They say there’s no place like home. It’s where the heart is…
Meet the little boy who believes in miracles.
Meet the mother who loves to bring babies home from the newborn aisle of her supermarket.
Meet the husband who carves a longed-for baby out of ice as a gift for his wife.
Meet the widow who is reminded of romance whilst standing at the kitchen sink.
In this prize-winning short story collection, Carys Bray weaves together moments of joy, heartache, sadness and unwavering love as told through seventeen very different notions of home.”
I received a copy of this book from the author and this is my honest review.
This is a collection of seventeen short stories, linked by the theme of parenting and the idea of home. There are stories of trying to parent according to self help books, a twist on the tale of Hansel and Gretel and tales of the disappointment of parents when they realise that they have done the things they promised themselves they would not do ‘when they had kids’.
There are examples of writing that are raw, full of sadness and desperate times. Others perfectly capture the fears of parenting, the feeling that whatever you do isn’t enough, the fear that you’ll fail at being a parent before you have even started. These are tales showing that parenting can’t be learnt from a guidebook, that there is no such thing as a perfect parent and that home has a different meaning for us all. Some like, The Ice Baby where a husband carves a baby from ice for his wife read like fairy tales, others, such as Wooden Mum show the struggles of a mother having to help the rest of the world deal with her autistic son. Each one is a moving story that made me reflect and gave me pause for thought.
On reading Sweet Home I am again struck by the level of skill needed to write good short stories. Luckily Carys Bray has that in spades. She manages to convey so much in a few pages, so much so that you are completely wrapped up in each story. There is a wonderful flow to the collection and despite the connecting theme, each story is different, each shows a different facet of family life, often times showing the sides that are usually hidden.
My favourite stories were Love: Terms and Conditions, where the unnamed mother is being tickled into declaring who of her children is her favourite and we see her telling herself who her favourite actually is, and On the Way Home, where we see a number of strangers come into contact on the same street. I also particularly liked Under Covers which shows that real romance can appear in the most unusual of guises when a widow recalls moments of tenderness with her husband.
A beautifully written collection of short stories, that can be dipped into or read in one sitting. It is one that I will return to in the future.