“Everyone’s patience has its limits.” – Rampart
The fourteen tales that comprise author Amy Grech’s second collection of short stories, Blanket of White, are all about finding people’s limits. Grech takes common themes – love, death, coming of age, sex, family relationships – and drags the reader across the line of comfort on an exploration of the dark side of those familiar situations.
In some, Grech forces the reader to confront that darkness head on, sparing no detail in the horror that people can inflict upon one another: “Prevention,” a demonstration of how the pressure of decades of sibling rivalry and parental neglect can explode horribly sideways; “Raven’s Revenge,” a supernatural tale that tips its bloody cap to the master, Edgar Allan Poe; “Russian Roulette,” in which a love triangle turns decidedly deadly; and “Perishables,” a post-apocalyptic exploration of just how far one man will go to survive.
In others, however, Grech builds her stories around the more nuanced psychological and emotional traumas that people encounter: “Blanket of White,” the title story, is a poignant look at the desperate measures people are willing to take in the name of love; “Initiation Day,” in which a young man makes a life altering choice between fitting in and standing alone; “Crosshairs,” where a father learns, with devastating consequences, just how much his young son has taken his teachings to heart; and “EV 2000,” a clever, futuristic tale of an electronic vampire run amok in its desire to understand what it is to be human.
It is in exploring those emotional shades of gray where the true power of Grech’s writing shines through. As such, it is the wonderfully understated “Damp Wind And Leaves” that is far and away the standout of the collection. Set against the backdrop of a Halloween party, the story skillfully unfurls the emotional evolution of a seventeen year old, over the course of a single evening, from that of a child trying to hold on to his delight in the manufactured scares of Halloween to that of a young man ready to let go of childish things and take the truly scary step forward into adulthood.
While each stands on its own, taken collectively the stories in Blanket of White represent a complete journey through emotions that everyone has experienced – love and hate, jealousy and rage, pride and shame – and does so in an unflinching way that packs a huge emotional wallop.