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I Bring Sorrow: And Other Stories of Transgression


I Bring Sorrow: And Other Stories of Transgression

On a California beach, Andrea looks for her mother among the homeless. Brady, as she is known for her distinctive long braid, has lived on the streets for a long time, but a new danger is lurking and Andrea’s panic is rising. Someone is preying on area women, grabbing them by their long braids before killing them. The more mundane tension Andrea experiences regarding her mother runs parallel to the new, more violent and more immediate threat that Brady faces.

“On Pacific Beach” is the opening story in Patricia Abbott’s collection, I BRING SORROW: And Other Stories of Transgression. The 25 tales here are dark explorations of human desires and actions, and many involve a clever twist. Abbott’s characters are real and relatable, even as their responses and deeds are jarring or shocking.

"There is plenty of suspense and surprise here, but Abbott is also capable of bringing remarkable insight and tenderness to her stories."

“Ten Things I Hate About My Wife,” “How to Launder a Shirt” and “My Social Contracts” all involve spousal murder. In “Fall Girl,” a 12-year-old girl takes the blame for her mother shooting and killing a man she had brought home. Needless to say, there is violence in Abbott’s wicked little stories, but there is also desperation and loss. All of it is so crisply captured and depicted that the violence itself is secondary, as it should be, to the lives and motivations of the characters.

Many of these characters are good people stuck in terrible situations. In “Um Peixe Grande,” Gaspar is a husband beleaguered by his nagging wife, Loretta. Unwilling to give up the livelihood he loves, even when it won’t pay the bills, Gaspar sets out to fish every morning, hoping for a decent catch. One day, what he catches is the victim of a crime, and the rescue brings him into the circle of a crime boss. Suddenly, Loretta doesn’t seem so bad. Doe, the central figure in “Doe in Headlights,” also finds herself at the mercy of a crime boss. Over the past two years, Feck has been using her and grooming her to assist in larger and more lucrative crimes. Like Gaspar, her complicity only goes so far. When the victim is an innocent, she must decide if she is willing to risk her own life to defy Feck.

While most stories in this collection present readers with traumatic or at least troubled familial relationships, Abbott includes a few stories that are different. “The Annas” is a look into the future where a small group of women have been cloned to rule a new world. In “Mad Women,” a shoplifting wife gets institutionalized. What makes people act in ways detrimental to themselves? What drives them to harm others? Despite, or because of, the disparate characters and settings, the shared themes of the stories are highlighted. Fear and greed drive Abbott’s characters, but so do need, love and loneliness.

It is not necessary to try to discern themes or describe tone because I BRING SORROW is such an entertaining and interesting read. Abbott is fantastically skilled at drawing readers into the lives of her characters in just a few pages. There is plenty of suspense and surprise here, but Abbott is also capable of bringing remarkable insight and tenderness to her stories. This book is recommended for short story fans as well as readers simply looking for finely crafted work.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on March 16, 2018

I Bring Sorrow: And Other Stories of Transgression
by Patricia Abbott

  • Publication Date: March 6, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Polis Books
  • ISBN-10: 1943818878
  • ISBN-13: 9781943818877