Elevate Difference

Small Displacements

This tiny, obscure (I am the only person as of this writing to add and review it on Goodreads) volume of short stories by England native and Ohio resident writer Vanessa Furse Jackson ties together eleven tales into a loose theme: sudden changes in someone's life, whether major or minor, and the resulting shift felt afterward. Most of the stories are overtly sad, with others having just undercurrents of a sort of foreshadowed melancholy with abrupt endings. These lead the reader to hunt backwards over what was just read, looking for further clues to piece together some sort of denouement other than the insidious daylight gloom at story's end.

The titular “displacements” experienced by the stories' characters range from the prolonged deaths of spouses, the growing apart of spouses, and the chance meeting of unhappy strangers with something to offer the other. Children are not spared these wounds and scarifications of life, and instead seem to fare the worst in Jackson's stories. Prankster adolescents are thrust from their childhoods by a strange, menacing adult, a fourteen-year-old girl waits with her mother in an abortion clinic, and two young siblings are faced for the first time with the death of a friend and their uncertainty at how to grieve. Though all the stories are brief and the characters necessarily sketched as concisely, the reader can't help but feel emotionally invested in them nonetheless.

I think Vanessa Furse Jackson shows skill as a character artist; her detail and language is sparse, but it doesn't hurt her storytelling and writing prowess. She just doesn't engage in overly flowery or purple prose, preferring to concentrate instead on her characters and the situations and actions in which they find themselves. At 155 pages, Small Displacements is a quick, needle-sharp, and gut-punching read.

Written by: Natalie Ballard, August 21st 2010

Sounds intriguing -- like a cross between another Jackson (Shirley) and Norah Lofts. Thanks for the review -- I'm off to look for the book!