“A Recycled Marriage” by Rosemary Mairs

A Recycled Marriage

Rosemary Mairs
Cinnamon Press (2022)
ISBN: 978-1788649322
Reviewed by Rachel Deeming for Reader Views (11/2022)

There is an art to writing a good short story as the limits presented by the form mean that a lot, and I mean a lot, needs to be crammed into a much shorter word count – characterisation, suspense, sense of place. And there is no doubt that Rosemary Mairs is good at this.

I devoured “A Recycled Marriage” in practically one sitting and found much to enjoy in these pages. Personally and generally, I think the short stories that are the best are those that are darker in content, where the intents of the characters are revealed by degrees, the delivery of the twist shocking and unsettling. All of that was present in Mairs’ stories. Like the short story master himself, Roald Dahl, you are led into a world where you sense that all is not right, preparing yourself ultimately to be confronted with this but just not knowing exactly when and what form it will take – a confession, a killing, a submission, a revelation, a confrontation. And we are in the world of ordinary people throughout, living their everyday lives for the most part. Mairs shows us relationships and friendships and also discusses political influences on her characters who have become involved in the sectarian violence which was such a big part of Northern Ireland’s history.

There are some great stories here, my two favourites being “Lilies” and “Unravelling” found towards the end of the collection. Both are confrontational in their subject matter and are really well written. Mairs has a very astute awareness of human behaviour and the way that people think when presented with situations where they are not quite sure what to believe. She also depicts the constraints and nuances of relationships so well, taking us into the minds of her characters and showing love in all its many contorted forms to great effect. Domestic violence, stalking, the need for company at any cost, the knowledge that we never really know the ones we love completely and utterly. Deep stuff and, at times disturbing, mostly because of her depiction of humanity and her ability to present it in such relatable terms.

If you are a fan of the short story form and enjoy fiction that takes you to places inside the human experience which can be uncomfortable but excellently visualised in accessible writing, you should read Mairs’ work.

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