Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling
Paperback | 9780268025564 | September 2007
Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling contains ten darkly funny short stories by Maura Stanton. Anything can happen in this swiftly narrated book, which provides glimpses of Gertrude Stein playing Ping-Pong with a G.I. in Paris during World War II, a famous contemporary writer giving a haircut in a bar in Eureka, California, and Katherine Mansfield struggling to write her final stories in Montana, Switzerland. The characters in Stanton's lively stories try to sort out their lives by telling stories or listening closely to the stories of other people. Two sisters interrogate each other about different versions of the party that changed their lives forever. A young woman entertains and shocks her friends in a café with a funny story about her first love affair. A landlady tries to reconstruct the life of a Sicilian immigrant whose ashes she finds in a trailer. In capturing with wit and sensitivity the struggles of its characters to make sense of the many strange and ordinary occurrences of everyday life, Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling reminds us that we are all, in some sense, characters in many of life's different stories. Winner of the 2002 Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction, this smart, tidy collection of 10 stories holds some pleasant surprises. "Ping-Pong," which appeared in the Chicago Tribune, reads as a straightforward memoir by the daughter of a GI who met Gertrude Stein in Paris. Stanton (Glacier Wine) is determined to fashion each story from a different angle and voice sometimes within the same story, as in "How to Converse in Italian," which finds two sisters relating their versions of the events culminating in a drunken episode that broke up their parents' marriage. Two other women take opposing views on the quality of the novel their dead sister is supposed to have written in "My Sister's Novel." Two tales recount the fate of an Italian immigrant named Dominica, who fled an abusive childhood in Sicily to start a new life in America. In "Squash Flowers," the narrator is a young woman interviewing an elderly neighbor of Dominica, whose ashes have been found unceremoniously dumped and abandoned in a garbage can. In "My Death," Dominica is one of the vociferous, terrifying Italian relatives of the boy narrator, Joey, who must decide whether it is worse to spend his time with them on their Maryland farm or be abused by his mean, redheaded orphan neighbor, Martha. Not all the stories match the energy of this one, but Stanton proves that she can tell a tale, develop it and introduce some prickly, dramatic elements all of which come together to gratifying effect.
Maura Stanton is professor of English and creative writing at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author of numerous books of poetry and short stories including Cities in the Sun, Glacier Wine, The Country I Come From, and Life Among the Trolls.
“. . . a stunning variety of dark, passionate, reflective stories. Stanton’s glistening strength is her ability to drop intriguing details into her pages that would be red herrings in less skilled writing, but by her hand they become tantalizing tendrils leading to mysterious places beyond her narrative.” ~North Dakota Quarterly