Saturday, October 2, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Setting Suns by Elizabeth Donald

TITLE: Setting Suns
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Donald
PUBLISHER: New Babel Books, 2006
ISBN 0-9720197-6-6 (196 pgs)

Setting Suns is a compilation of stories from the delightfully bizarre imagination of Elizabeth Donald. After each of the 15 tales included, Ms. Donald gives the reader a little insight into the thought processes that tormented her into producing the story.

The favorite of all is, of course, Jesus Loves Me. This account of a singing, winged teddy bear, a gift for a three-year-old boy, whose terrifying rendition of the old hymn portends something much darker, is made all the more haunting by the revelation made at the end of the story in Ms. Donald's afterword.

The rest of the stories run the gamut from the inherent tragedy in resisting the finality of death (Sisyphus, Memoir), the mutability of mind versus time (Silent), and a brilliant monster story (Deep Breathing), to a fantastically well-written and nastily cutting commentary on men and their treatment of women (Memory Lane), a welcome story about Ms. Donald's foul-mouthed but strong-willed heroine Aurora Crawford (Gauntlet), and a disturbing suicide deliberation (The River). There are weak points in the book. Vertigo, The Puzzle, and Symphony of the Woods are obviously emotional venting of deeply felt feelings and beliefs that probably would have been better placed elsewhere. I Live With It Every Day (co-written with Jason R. Tippitt) is, IMHO, unworthy of the collection altogether. The re-visiting of the old "computers can be monsters" theme of Wonderland is well-handled and differently structured, worth the read only for its novel approach to a trite subject. Prisoner's Dilemma left me wondering.

Elizabeth Donald is one of the strongest writers it is my privilege to know. This book has a broad range of her fiction, showing her ability to write for any and all tastes, and showing her readers her human side through her notes and explanations. I came away from Setting Suns with a greater appreciation for her work, and a greater respect for the author herself.

Highly recommended.