SheBooks specializes in mini e-books “by and for women,” typically in the form of two short stories, a novella, essays, or a brief memoir, all priced at a reasonable $2.99. For about the cost of a Starbucks beverage, you can purchase high-quality reading in the perfect length for a morning commute (or two).
SheBooks recently released three dozen initial offerings in what is expected to be a rapidly expanding catalog. I decided to sample the short fiction of three writers I’m familiar with in order to see whether the quality of the stories was up to their usual standard.
Jessica Anya Blau is the author of three well-regarded novels, The Wonder Bread Summer (2013), Drinking Closer to Home (2011), and The Summer of Naked Swim Parties (2008). [See my review of Swim Parties here: http://wp.me/p3EtWm-3L, and my interview with Blau here: http://wp.me/p3EtWm-3Q.]
Her e-book Mating Calls includes the stories “The Problem with Lexie” and “No. 7,” both of which feature Blau’s trademark sassy wit and sexually frank subject matter. Lexie is in the midst of a steamy affair when, after a night of partying, she decides to drive out to her lover’s house just to look around. Then she uses the hidden key to enter the house. Then she takes a sedative from the wife’s medicine cabinet and lays down on the marital bed “just to rest” for a minute. You probably think you know where things go from there. But Lexie, despite a gift for making bad decisions, is also smart and shrewd in other ways.
“No. 7” is the story of Zandra, an overweight high school girl looking for love in all the wrong places. She yearns for male attention and is willing to pay the price to obtain it. This bittersweet tale describes her experiences with Number 7, just one of the many young men who passed through her life during her high school and college years. Find out why the boys call her “C.S.”
Caroline Leavitt is best known for her sensitive and powerful bestsellers Pictures of You (2011) and Is This Tomorrow (2013). [My review of the latter book is here: http://wp.me/p3EtWm-3g, and my interview with Leavitt can be found here: http://wp.me/p3EtWm-3c.]
The Wrong Sister is a sensitive portrayal of two sisters, Stella and Rose, and the latter’s first experience with true love. Daniel Richmond is as nice a young man as a girl could want to meet, and Rose falls hard for him, abandoning her sister. Stella is jealous and resentful because Daniel has taken her older sister, whom she adores, from her. But the course of true love never runs smooth and complications ensue. Leavitt writes with her usual insight into her character’s hearts and minds.
“The Last Vacation” captures the key moments comprising the coming of age of Sadie, who discovers the truth about her parents and first love, and ultimately, about herself. This is actually the stronger of the two stories, written with a level of detail and compassion found in the best stories.
Virginia Pye is the author of River of Dust (2013), a novel about the kidnapping of, and resulting search for, an American missionary’s young son in early 20th century China. Her Mother’s Garden features a more modern, domestic setting. This long story/short novella follows Annie Burke as she muddles, competently though uneventfully, through her post-college years. Then she runs into Freddie Marcatelli, former “big man on campus” from their high school days and, to her surprise, he begins to court her. But they come from different cultural milieux. Despite Freddie’s upbringing in a working class neighborhood, he is the one who has become more successful (more than Annie and perhaps many other local folks expected).
The story also explores Annie’s relationship with her mother, in which the latter’s impressive garden plays a key role, both physically and emotionally. When things take a bad turn, Freddie proposes a solution. The question is whether it’s actually the right thing for Annie. While living in the present and planning for the future, Annie learns that the past can exert the most powerful influence on the course of one’s life.
For more information on SheBooks and their e-book catalog, visit shebooks.net.