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The Sweetest Hours

By Laura Pedersen

ISBN: 1419616897
Review by: Grace Tierney

07/06

There is nothing quite like the joy of finding a new favorite author if you’re a keen reader. You get to enjoy the current book as well as scanning the “previously published” list at the front to select the next entries for your “to be read pile.” Such was the joy I experienced when reading The Sweetest Hours by Laura Pedersen.

The collection of short stories revolves around love, but the dozen tales avoid typical boy-meets-girl soppy romances. Angles on the theme include the love between close sisters, women trying to find love via the small ads, the kindness involved in keeping alive the romance of Santa, a retired family dog mentoring college kids, a man whose love for a dolphin saves him from a marriage of convenience, and even a variety of loves simmering in an old folk’s home. The diversity reflects the true variety of love in the modern world and makes for a good story collection as each story offers something new to the reader rather than just the same story in different guises.

The storylines are inventive to the last degree but the laugh-aloud one-liners, warm tone, and upbeat style bring these stories to a new level. Pedersen is a genuinely witty lady who possesses a broad vocabulary and does not fear using it, thankfully not simply to impress with virtuosity, but to provide lasting impressions of her characters and to engage the reader.

One elderly lady is incisively described as being able to knit a jacuzzi and that short-hand is enough to furnish the reader with a vivid mental-photo of the character. Another particularly thin, pale skinned and light-haired woman in a green uniform is compared to a scallion – perhaps not something I’d like to be said about me, but it sure made me laugh. Her skill isn’t just limited to character creation, however, the settings breathe with reality too. Birds doesn’t soar and predict coming storms of passion as a more cliched romance might, instead they hop from twig to twig to get a better angle for “wormviewing.”

The best stories in the collection for my taste were “The Twilight Home” and “True to Her Word”. The former is rich with overtones of the Scooby Doo gang but this time the gang consists of seniors aided by a pampered perpetual student who uncover the dastardly deeds of the retirement home’s director. High comedy ensues when their team drive to the scene of the crime via a team effort - one doing the seeing, another ringing the police, one navigating, and another driving – each according to their own physical abilities. Warning – don’t read this if you believe older people don’t like booze, drugs, and sex – your heart (and funny bone) may struggle to cope.

As for “True to Her Word”, well it is quite simply the best short story I’ve read in years. The tale relates the sensation caused when “the shy sister” inherits the local bookstore and decides to dispose of the stock by silently match-making the regular customers to their ideal life-changing books. It’s a clever idea for a story anyhow but thankfully Pedersen crafts it in such a way that it becomes more than a clever idea. The customer subplots and indeed that of the shop-keeper herself are perfectly engaging and touchingly resolved. Any keen reader loves books and bookstores with a passion, this story is homage to that love and should appeal to most readers, particular those who prefer happy endings.

From the moment I opened the bright bubble-blowing cover of this collection until I finished it, I relished each page. Do yourself a favor, do the same. Pedersen’s novels are already award winning and her short fiction is sure to reach the same heights. Here’s one for your “to be read” pile.

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