What ties us to one another and to the places we call home? What happens when we’re on the road, adrift and misreading the clues? Though far from their familiar surroundings, the travelers in these stories find themselves tied by the bonds of love and blood.
These elegantly crafted stories brim with emotional wisdom and eloquence. Bearing you around the world, they will imprint themselves, deeply, indelibly, upon your heart.
—Melissa Pritchard, author of Palmerino
Tight, interesting, and evocative, these are stories that surprise and delight.
—Molly Giles, author of Rough Translations and Creek Walk
In stories linked by themes of journey and displacement, the landscapes of Marylee MacDonald’s excellent collection, Bonds of Love & Blood, span Turkey’s Saklikent Gorge, a murky swimming pool in Vera Cruz, the maze of a beggar’s apartment building on the outskirts of Prague, and a Maine farmhouse during an ice storm, with each character backed up “right against the precipice,” as the twelve stories investigate the limits of relationship when the will of one person is determined to prevail over another.
—Adria Bernardi, author of Openwork, a novel, and Dead Meander, essays
People who avoid short fiction in favour of novels may complain that too much is left out or too much is compressed into a small space. Marylee MacDonald’s splendid collection is an antidote for both objections. Like two virtuoso short story practitioners named Moore–Newfoundland’s Lisa and America’s Lorrie–MacDonald masterfully reveals exactly what we need to dwell memorably with her characters at decisive crossroads and to revel in the prime benefit of short fiction: imagining her characters’ prior lives and the outcomes of their crises. Her fiction takes us on a Mexican holiday with an abusive husband and his wife and daughter and to an encounter between a young male tourist and a trans-gendered tourism worker in a Southeast Asian resort. We are with Anna searching for her vanished son in Prague, an African American Vassar grad arrested in a Baltimore bar, and Leslie when her workaholic-scientist husband Ashok brings his widowed Indian mother to live with them in Ontario. MacDonald’s savvy understanding of human relationships, and her lucid, vibrant, and ruggedly poetic prose, make for riveting stories you both can’t put down and must pause at length between, imagining what came before and what comes next.
—Richard Lemm, Shape of Things to Come, Burning House, Four Ways of Dealing with Bullies, English Dept., University of Prince Edward Island,
The vivid, visceral stories of Bonds of Love & Blood explore continents and cultures, but also the often-greater distance between human hearts. Rich and compelling, beautifully rendered, MacDonald dares to question which is the greater, more unsettling risk: the alluring intimacy of foreign terrains, or the intimate dangers of domesticity?
—Tara Ison, author of Rockaway, The List, and Child out of Alcatraz
Tender and wry, Bonds of Love & Blood is a full-hearted, wide-ranging collection of stories. MacDonald captures the everyday tyranny of domestic life, at home and abroad. College failures, overbearing mothers, tyrannical fathers, they’re all here. Cranky and long-suffering, her characters remind us of our universal and contradictory longing for solitude and for connection. Savor this book. Enjoy being in the hands of a generous and visionary writer.
—Eileen Favorite, author of The Heroines
The twelve stories in Bonds of Love & Blood present unforgettable portraits of people crossing out of love’s dangers into its greater dangers, out of limited self-recognition into painful new and unlimited self-discovery, out of hopeless suspension and impossible connection into vulnerable hope and tender communion. Marylee MacDonald writes with wisdom and patience and dramatic power in presenting converging inward and outward journeys. At each turn, the imaginative storytelling guides you into the riddling hearts of people who appear to be out of options but become ready to learn to try again.
—Kevin McIlvoy, author of Hyssop, Little Peg, and The Fifth Station
“The Pancho Villa Coin” is an absorbing and troubling read. A young girl, exploring both interior and exterior landscapes, struggles, alongside her mother, to love and survive her explosively alcoholic father. The story manages to soak the reader in a pleasingly foreign atmosphere while building a feeling of threat.
—Michael Signorelli, Editor, HarperCollins and Judge for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Short Story Competition
Driven by the best intentions of his family, Walter drifts from jobs and through life without a clear sense of what he wants. The birthmark on his face scars more than his skin alone. On a trip to Thailand, he confronts a realization about his own happiness. His genuine, awkward, almost tender interaction with The Lady provides him with another perspective on how to deal with the hand one is dealt in life. I wondered what Walter would do when he returned home, having met someone willing to go through extremes to feel, perhaps even become, whole. Matt Clark Prize winner Marylee MacDonald tells the story, “Almost Paradise,” with great sensitivity.
—Ronlyn Domingue, Judge for the Matt Clark Prize, New Delta Review
“Break” is a road and work story, and a times-are-tough story, and you feel yourself pulled along with these characters, feeling for both men, employer and employee, even as the former makes tough decisions and the latter is tempted by a better offer. Good, clear writing and an earned ending make this a story to read and reread.
—Tom Franklin, Judge for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Short Story Competition