Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie

In this debut book, Caitlin Hamilton Summie uses the medium of the short story to explore the important junction points of lives.  There is the man who waits in the hospital for his son to be born.  A young girl from a middle-class background finds herself living in Alphabet City in New York, adrift from all she knows about life and relationships.  A woman remembers a snowstorm and how shepherding schoolchildren to safety allowed her to find her adult strength and know she was up to the task of parenting.  A grandfather dies and sisters discover the fault line in their sisterhood and the resentment when a family member grows in a way that is unanticipated.  A woman decides to write down her family's history and finds the story of the sister who was written out of the family memories.  One story picks up on a story related earlier, of sisters who have drifted apart but who are redefining what they mean to each other.

The character definitions are clear; the reader can picture the individuals who are portrayed and recognize their characteristics in other people they have known.  The descriptions are luminous, taking the reader to the place in which the story is set.  One example, 'My father grabbed me by the hand, and we jogged across the yard.  The night air was cold.  Subzero temperatures slapped me awake.  Our boots crunched the snow as we ran.  I will remember this always, this jog to the barn in the middle of the night with only the light of the stars.'

Caitlin earned her MFA With Distinction from Colorado State University.  Since then her stories have been published in various places but the reader will be glad to find them collected into one book.    Her deft writing explores what family means, how we love and how we let others down but as we keep trying to connect, find each other again and again.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in how we all relate to each other.

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