By: Marjan Sierhuis
Publisher: Iguana Books
Publication Date: February 21, 2023
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 11, 2023
A unique collection of short stories awaits the reader who opens the pages to author Marjan Sierhuis' newest book, The Dog Stays: And Other Stories.
The Dog Stays opens with "A Blue Baby Hat," a sweet tale, that's also a bit of a tear-jerker. We meet James, who is in a hospital room with his wife, whose cold hand he gently caresses. Well-chosen words quickly give the reader a sense of what is going on, and a description of the hospital room brings said reader into the room, as if to eavesdrop on James and his wife. But after this gentle encounter, you better hold on to your seat, because the rest of the book is going to bring you all sorts of fun, crazy, wacky, touching, and even sad tales, that will tug at all your emotions.
The collection of tales within this book cover an amazing array of topics, from a dragon trying to break into show business to a child visiting his parent in a care facility where the parent suffers from dementia and doesn't recognize their child. From funny to sad, to tales that make you go, "huh? I didn't see that coming," this book really does have it all.
The above-mentioned dragon story, titled "Flame" is one of the longer tales and is definitely one of my favorites. We meet Flame, a dragon who is trying to prove that she can make it on her own, and has managed to get hired as a film extra on a fantasy movie. But then Cedric, the director, tells her that budget cuts are forcing him to fire her and use CGI instead of real dragons. What could go wrong with this scenario? Hint: it's not what you think.
From the silly to the sad, we meet Edward in "The Box," who has recently lost his wife. Recalling her final words, "Look inside, after I die," he follows her instructions and removes a small box from her side of the closet. A simple message awaits him, as does a tear for the reader. This story is followed by another teary-eyed tale, "The Summer of 2016," where a mother in a nursing home asks her child, "Do I know you?" For anyone who has lost a loved one to dementia, this one will sting and yet, tell the reader that they are not alone in the suffering of watching a loved one fade away.
The Dog Stays: And Other Stories is a collection of tales that can be read in one sitting, but don't rush through this book as many of these stories really do ask you to think about what you just read. From silly animals talking to each other, to a mistress with a pistol, to running out of gas far out in the country while trying to buy some farm fresh eggs, you don't know what to expect from one page to the next. Best described as flash fiction rather than short stories (flash fiction typically runs less than 1,500 words), many of these stories are half a page or less. Although there are no chapters denoting stories with similar themes, there is a bit of an organization to how the stories are placed, with animal stories appearing together, themes of aging grouped together, and so on. While it may seem that such short stories can be easily written, it takes a talented author to create very, very short stories that set the place, characters, and events so well. Author Marjan Sierhuis, who clearly has a love for the shortest of fiction, knows just how to place the words to bring these stories to life.
Quill says: The Dog Stays: And Other Stories is a quick read but one that will pull at your emotions on every page. Get ready to laugh, cry, and pause to think about each and every tale the author has crafted.
For more information on The Dog Stays: And Other Stories, please visit the author's website at: www.marjansierhuis.ca/