Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review: 'Cold Comfort' by Kathleen Gerard

Kathleen Gerard is a writer whose work has been awarded The Perillo Prize, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award and nominated for Best New American Voices and Short Story America, all national prizes in literature. Kathleen writes across genres. Her short prose and poetry have been widely published in magazines, journals and anthologies and have been awarded and nominated for many prizes including The Saturday Evening Post "Great American Fiction" Prize, The Mark Twain House Humor Prize and the Faulkner-Wisdom Prize. Her essays have been broadcast on National Public Radio. Kathleen writes for Shelf Awareness and maintains the blog, "Reading Between the Lines."

For those fortunate enough to have read other books by Kathleen, COLD COMFORT will come as no surprise as it is her special brand of polished prose and that rare quality of being in touch with feelings we all own but rarely allow to surface – feelings she so easily translates to the written word. He ability to draw unique characters is a gift, one obvious in the opening paragraphs of this very special love story: ‘“Be back in an hour,” Aunt Minnie said, handing me a shopping list longer than my arm. “I don’t want to be late for my appointment at the chiropodist.” I didn’t know what a chiropodist was any more than I could read Aunt Minnie’s warbling scribble. The intensity of her penmanship— the shape and form of each carefully constructed letter, both upper and lower case— could be felt like Braille bleeding through the post-marked and addressed business-sized envelope. She’d cut it open length-wise in order to accommodate her long list of instructions. Frugality, even when it came to recycling uses for paper, was Minnie’s middle name. “I can’t read this. What does this say?” I asked, pointing to one of the many stops listed on the itinerary. “Let me see.” Aunt Minnie slipped on the pair of bifocal glasses hanging from a chain around her neck. She peered down at the list and spouted, “Okay, we’ve got the turkey, gizzards and hot and sweet saus-seige from Arturo the Butcher; potatoes and parsley, pinnolis and lemons from Dutchy at the veg-a-table stand; cannolis and strufuli from Palermo’s… With the cod, you tell Giacomo that I want four fill-its, as big as my hand, half-inch thick.” She gestured at the length of her palm then held up her thumb and forefinger to demonstrate what she meant.’

In need of some spirit picker-upper this season? Then by all means read this book, summarized as follows – ‘It's Thanksgiving weekend and workaholic photojournalist Anna Maria "A.M." LaRusa returns to Federal Hill, a small Italian-American enclave in Rhode Island, to spend a quiet holiday with her only remaining relative, her Aunt Minnie, a hip, 96-year-old who texts and has a blog. But when a blizzard Nor'easter threatens New England, there is a change in plans. As A.M. and her aunt prepare for the holiday and the storm, A.M. unexpectedly runs into a man she hasn't seen in ten years--a man whom she still refers to as "the guy who broke my heart in college"--and her weekend and her life are suddenly upended. Stuck amid the snowy deep freeze that paralyzes the region, A.M. begins to wonder if her cold, wounded heart from an unrequited love will ever thaw.’

Everything you need for a short, sit by the toasty fire and prepare for the holidays – and life as it can be. Another winner for Kathleen Gerard. Grady Harp, November 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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