I have been increasing the number of short story collections I have been reading lately. I love that they are flexible and I can read them along with anything else I have on my nightstand. I can read a story at a time for a little break and be back to business. However, Dis Mem Ber, a series of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates, did not provide the versatility I desired; I was unable to simply pick up this book and put it down again. Once I started, I was completely sucked into these dark and twisted narratives and had to greedily finish them all!!
Each story provided a look into completely different sets of characters and scenarios. Dis Mem Ber, the first story followed a girl who became attached to the family black sheep, The Crawl Space about a grieving widow, and The Drowned Girl about a woman who becomes obsessed with a homicide victim. Ominous and gritty, each story provided a snapshot that I desperately wanted more of!
I felt like these stories gave a Southern Gothic Fiction vibe (think Flannery O’Conner or Shirley Jackson), which I loved. I also loved that each of the stories was narrated by or featured a female protagonist.
For my first experience with this author, I would say it was a win. Obviously, some stories, like the ones I mentioned above, stood out more than others, but overall, I love this collection! 4/5 stars from me.
Thanks to the author and the publisher for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.
This book was also a June #cjsreads pick! Keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one.
What Chandra Thought
Short stories have always been a mixed bag for me. I’ve only read a few compilations outside of Stephen King and even with him, I find myself not as engaged or pleased with most of them. Done right, short stories can pack a huge punch and is probably one of the hardest writing styles to accomplish. Presented with the chance to read Oates for the first time and read a collection consisting of mysteries and suspense, how could I pass this up??
There are 7 stories compiled into less than 250 pages. While some I just did NOT get, others hit the mark for me. My standouts in this collection would be Heartbreak, Great Blue Heron and Welcome to Friendly Skies! The last one being satirical and after SO MUCH traveling this past month it just made me nod my head like mmm hmmm … yep, sounds about right.. yep, that too… oh Joyce, you know your travel don’t you? 😉
On a nit picky level, I prefer to read stories with more dialogue and there’s little in this collection. I also felt that some things seemed repetitive or a continuous theme throughout some of the stories (but maybe that was intentional?). Each story but the last seem to be geared towards females, reflective of the frail nature that can turn deadly in an instant, or a strange family dynamic. All fascinating for me… I just wish there had been a bit more variety and a bit more story – which is the issue I have with short stories most of the time, I’m left wanting. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Oates’s other works as I do like where her mind tends to veer toward.
What Jessica Thought
When I saw DIS MEM BER by Joyce Carol Oates I knew I needed to have it – short horror stories? Obviously, that’s going to be something I’m going to read! Being a huge Stephen King fan, I really appreciate the really scary short stories, sometimes the short stories are the creepiest because they can pack a quick punch. This was also my introduction to Oates and I love her writing style.