April Gloaming Publishing (2017)
Reviewed by Jennifer Wilson for Reader Views (6/18)
“Andermatt County: Two Parables” by Pam Jones contains two intriguing stories, both set in Andermatt County in South Central, Texas
In “Ye Shall be as Gods”, we are introduced to Emmett Anhalt, a teenage boy living in typical small-town USA. Where everything you might need can be found in the general store on Main Street. The local café knows everyone’s story as well as their usual meal. Emmett lives in a small house with his mother and her two sisters. At 15 he still sleeps in his mother’s bed and the story alludes to abuse by one aunt, and disdain from the other.
While skipping school one day, he is stumbled upon in the woods by an older man. This older man, Rex Henry Burr, is not at all alarmed by the strange behaviors Emmett exudes. This gains him instant trust from the boy. Emmet moves into the older man’s home and unknowingly colludes his own exploitation. However, Emmett doesn’t see a sociopath, he idolizes Rex Henry. Emmett doesn’t seek autonomy, he willingly allows himself to be controlled by the older man.
The story is so complex. It was hard for me to reconcile the characters macabre actions to their obvious love of each other. “He would go anywhere, if only to touch Rex Henry’s hand.” (309) This novella could have easily been a full-fledged novel and I would have still devoured every word. I fell head first into the story. The author is not overly verbose, leaving a lot to the imagination of the reader. However, her writing style is, in places, beautiful. “All was still, and all was stirring,” (106) for example.
I would recommend this story to anyone who is a fan of the short stories of Stephen King and the like. (The Body, Apt Pupil, etc.…). It’s not a children’s book, but don’t let the weight of the subject matter steer you away. There are some violent moments, but they aren’t described in gory detail. I truly enjoyed this book and would love to see the author publish a sequel with Marilu and Magical as the main characters.
In “Happy Birthday, Dear Bitsy,” Mother wants six-year-old Esther to be the way she envisions other young ladies to be, prim, proper, and, well, clean. However, Esther prefers to march to her own beat. She doesn’t see the importance of speaking at all, much less using good grammar, or complete sentences for that matter. She dislikes being clean and will fight to the death to avoid a good bath. Father, on the other hand, seems a bit more tolerant of his little girl’s primitive ways; always barefoot, bringing home small animal carcasses with pride, smashing beautiful butterflies with her grubby little hands.
Just before Esther’s birthday, a catalog arrives with what Mother sees as the perfect gift. She has the scene all lain out, Esther and her new doll in matching dresses having a proper tea party with all the girls in the neighborhood. She shows Esther and the girl is smitten with the doll in the picture. She even lets mother wash her hair without complaint. Mother orders the doll and goes about planning a birthday party for Esther, her friends, (all two of them) and their dolls.
The party seems to be going well, much to Mother’s delight, so she and the other mothers decide to leave the girls in the kitchen to play while they talk in the living room. The girls, however, quickly follow Esther’s lead and the proper tea party turns into something altogether different. When the mothers become worried at the ruckus they hear in the kitchen, they are horrified at the scene playing out before them. However, at a time when they would normally lose their minds, they sit and watch the girl’s unique way of playing.
I am not certain of the author’s intended message, but I know what this short story said to me. Many times in my years as a mother, I have found myself in similar circumstances. Meaning, I have projected my dreams, wants, and desires upon my children only to come away disappointed with the outcome, and my behavior. All mothers of “strong-willed” children like Esther (and my own youngest son) will appreciate “Happy Birthday, Dear Bitsy.”
Overall I found “Andermatt County: Two Parables” by Pam Jones to be a very well-written novella that I am certain to read again.