I read Mary Smith’s No More Mulberries earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was eager to get to Donkey Boy and Other Stories to see if I’d enjoy her short stories as much. I was not disappointed.
Donkey Boy is a beautifully written story, set in Pakistan, of Ali, an eleven-year-old boy, who has had to leave school and go to work for his father in his wood yard. On this particular day he has an unusual task before him, and one that brings a change in his fortune. But does it bring him as much joy as he initially thinks it will? The descriptions in this story are so vivid you can imagine yourself walking alongside the donkey in this fabulous tale. Smith’s ability to write excellent characters is not diminished by them being within this shortened form and they are rich and fully rounded. I raced through the other stories.
Three Boys and a Piano is a harsh tale of Davie in the aftermath of his brother’s funeral. Unexpectedly his father turns up having abandoned the family years before and, sparked by a photograph, the recriminations begin to fly.
My Name is Anya tells the tale of an adopted child. Anya is clearly deeply cared for by her parents, Jeannie and Alex, who are respectful of her past, but perhaps, too respectful, as Anya discovers when she just wants to fit in at school.
Accidents Happen is a terrible tale told by Merunissa, a daughter, whose life is altered immeasurably when her mother marries Dr Akram. Today is the day she has planned her escape, but if she fails she has no doubt, another accident will happen.
Such Soft Hands is a very short story, barely two pages, but it is an exquisitely told tale that I won’t say anything further about for fear of spoilers.
Asylum Seekers. I had to smile at this one, while shaking my head, because it is truly ghastly. The narrator is someone we can sadly all recognise, spouting off about asylum seeker and foreigners in general. There’s not much she doesn’t know about everything and anything but actually she’s so blinkered, so short-sighted in her thoughts and opinions she fails to see the hypocrisy in her and her own family’s situation.
Trouble with Socks. George has moved into a nursing home to convalesce after an illness and the socks that are returned to him from the laundry are not his, although it’s hard to make the support worker, Margaret, realise why that’s a problem.
Miss Biffin leaves the Circus harks back to the dark old days when there were freak shows that toured the country. Miss Biffin has no arms or legs but paints portraits with her mouth. Sharp owns the circus, and what a nasty, controlling piece of work he is. When Michael arrives he brings hope that Miss Biffin’s future may be brighter.
The Thing in Your Eye is a really chilling tale but such an interesting idea. Molly sees things in people’s eyes, and they show her the bad things they’ve done. It’s too much to go into here but so intriguing to read.
There is such a terrific range of stories here and throughout all of them is wonderful humour, beautiful writing and thoughtful story telling. I highly recommend to all who enjoy a good tale well told.
I reviewed No More Mulberries HERE.