Review: Thank Your Lucky Stars by Sherrie Flick (reviewed by Amanda Kelley Corbin)

Thank Your Lucky Stars
by Sherrie Flick
200 Pages
Autumn House Press, 2018
$17.95
ISBN: 978-1938769351

The 50 stories in Thank Your Lucky Stars were written over the same time period that the author worked on her first short story collection, Whiskey, Etc. Flick says she likes to think of this collection as the darker, edgier “B-side” of Whiskey, Etc. The book is a mix of both flash fiction and longer short stories.

While the stories in Thank Your Lucky Stars are certainly dark and edgy, there is also humor and occasional tenderness. In “Simple,” Flick writes,

Butch curled himself closer, drawing her long legs through his, tangling their lives like two floating fishnets. He ran his hand through her long hair while he told her stories. Stories about moons rising, like the one outside her bedroom window, rising slowly like a dandelion ready to blow away and leave the night pitch-black and lonely—moons waiting for lovers like themselves to make the darkness into something more.

The characters in Thank Your Lucky Stars are often at one crossroads or another—especially when it comes to navigating relationships—whether it be a breakup, falling in love, or getting busted for infidelity—which are embodied in details like faux farmers in “How I Left Ned,” or a purring cat in “And Then,” or a cashmere sock in “Sweetie Pie.” Flick has a penchant for creating memorable details. One story features a mounted deer head named Mr. Bojangles. In another story, a cowboy photographer goes door to door on a pony named Puff. In “Lenny the Suit Man” a tailor fits men for suits out of his van, which also has an espresso machine bolted inside.

Throughout the collection Flick engages themes of time and memory with an eye for small but powerful images. In “Garden Inside,” each of the four sections of the seven-page story capture a time in the life of the second-person narrator through their gardens. “It’s hard to believe that corn can grow so fast in June and July,” she writes. “Some days you see your life pass before your eyes. Others, you sit and listen to time passing you by. It’s a miracle. And then, just as suddenly, the stalks die standing up.”

Thank Your Lucky Stars also captures the essence of several different settings, from Wyoming to Las Vegas to Ohio to Nebraska. In “Oklahoma Men,” she writes: “The men… push their hats back on their heads to see clearly across their days, across the hills and miles, across all the fences they’ve strung together to know where they’ve been, to know how to get back to what it was they started.”

Both the longer stories and the short shorts are of equal caliber but have distinct strengths. Flash pieces are image-driven and poetic, with a dreamy quality about them. The beginning of the two-paragraph long “Wyoming” reads:

In Wyoming, baby cows are born with fluffy white clouds for faces. Birds fall fast and furious from the sky. They don’t get hurt. It’s all an act, like Houdini, a sleight of hand. Just like the hills that converge and rise, roll and fall, and creep around at night like cups in a guessing game. In the morning you swear that one of the hills used to be over there, not here.

Longer pieces allow Flick’s characters to room to explore themselves. The protagonist in “Lenny the Suit Man” says “Yes. I know. I’m damaged goods for a long time to come. I’m wrapped in plastic and taped at weird angles.” And later he professes to feel “like the useless punk my mother assured me I’d be.” And later still, he realizes “every single person understands how to make progress in this world, except me.”

At just under 200 pages, Thank Your Lucky Stars covers a full range of subjects, moods, ideas, emotions, and impressions. Readers are given both the realistic and the strange, quirkiness and wisdom, as Flick secures her position as master of the short and the short short story. –Amanda Kelley Corbin

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