‘All the little things that we lose’ – short story collection

DS_Final_Cvr_Low_ResALL THE LITTLE THINGS THAT WE LOSE: SELECTED STORIES (Skive Magazine Press) was published January 2010. In January 2011, the publisher closed their doors so the book is currently unavailable and out of print.

‘All the little things that we lose: selected stories’ received a glowing review from The Short Review UK (May 2010). “Sheldon’s stories lift the skin of small, suburban lives to expose the raw nerves beneath. Her writing is intimate, compelling and alarming…” Read the full review here:  http://www.theshortreview.com/reviews/DeborahSheldonAlltheLittleThingsThatWeLose.htm

“She slaps Joey again between his shoulder blades. His feet jerk and his abdominal muscles clench weakly against her knee. If she manages to dislodge the grated carrot, this will become a family story repeated often throughout the years…And if her attempts don’t work, Caroline can see her life as an empty, aching horror, stretching out for year after unbearable year, and she slaps him again. That makes five slaps. One more and she will turn him on his back, cradling her baby within the curl of her left arm.”
A couple of stories into All the Little Things That We Lose and I felt that I was beginning to orientate myself in Deborah Sheldon’s world. This was an Australia I caught a glimpse of in a long-ago visit: the everylands of suburbia – think Neighbours minus the gloss and comfort (Sheldon is a scriptwriter who’s worked on the show) – thinning out to the long, dull emptinesses between towns, where any new person may be a threat. Against these flat, often banal backdrops small details take on significance and the slightest gesture can be loaded with menace.
I was getting a taste for this unsettling landscape. And then I read Counting the Steps From One Through Five, a spare, coruscating account of Caroline tIrying to revive her son as he chokes on a piece of carrot. The writing is unadorned and unsensational and in slightly over two pages, Sheldon gives place, character and sky-high stakes, tapping directly into a primal need, mother love, and its appalling opposite: mother loss. Part of the effect is achieved through the patterning of tenses – we are in the present, yet even at this moment of high drama Caroline remembers where she first learned CPR, and imagines possible futures spiraling away from this moment. I finished this story through tears, then had to close the book and take several breaths to try to find a way back out of Sheldon’s world. Power indeed.
Sheldon specialises in the little moments that reveal the chaos and terror beneath. Real life, even in suburbia is only skin deep: blink and there may be plagues of flies or a ghost boy or a man with a gun. Stories such as We Have What You Want and Man with a Suitcase pull off a violent, almost cartoonish, abruptness – think Flannery O’ Connor or Ernest Hemingway. What saves them from farce is the dense subtext of unanswered questions that Sheldon weaves into her set ups, plus spare, ungarnished descriptions – “Sarah’s cheekbone gave way with a loud pop” – more horrifying than any laboured drawing of physical agony.
As well as violence in the pieces themselves, the scale between each story keeps changing, making the collection interestingly unpredictable. To choose a run of five, consecutive stories from the middle of the book, The Cash Cow takes the reader on a blackly comic and also terrifying whistlestop tour of gangland underworld. This then lurches into the quiet, domestic tragedy of Waiting for the Huntsman, where Natalie – staying with unfamiliar family while her mother is in hospital – stares terrified at a spider lurking in “the space in the roof…thick with darkness”. Following this small scale domestic drama comes Baggage, where the breakdown of Afrodite’s marriage is enacted by a biblical flood that “pulled back into the waterway like an octopus into its cave, sucking and slurping at Afrodite’s van and Ruth’s hatchback and dragging both over the buckled fence and down the grassy bank”. Then to Lunch at the Trout Farm, where a family fishing outing is infused with domestic disharmony and the lack of tinfoil for a barbecue may be the end of a marriage. The run of five finishes with Flight Path, perhaps the strangest story in this collection: two survivors of plane wreck wake in the middle of a salt plain – but who are these people and what has happened to them? There was something of Samuel Beckett or Flann O’Brien in the revelation of horror here, a truly chilling little piece.
Occasionally, perhaps inevitably, the edge of emotion becomes blunted – though the skilful organisation of the collection meant this happened only rarely. A couple of stories,Parrots and Pelicans springs to mind, felt a beat or so light, especially towards the end. But this feels carping in stories lined with the potential violence and everyday horror that pulses beneath the most
quotidian of lives.

 

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK BLURBS FROM EDITORS OF LITERARY MAGAZINES

“All the little things that we lose” is the sort of book that I dream of reading: clear, sharp writing, and telling portraits of people faced with loss, and change, and challenges as they try to make sense of their lives. The writing rewards considered rereading, and it is an exemplary work from a rising and vital talent.

– Phillip Ellis, editor Australian Reader

 “All the little things that we lose” is short fiction told masterfully. Sheldon’s stories have that rare ability to speak volumes between each word. There are pieces of life’s puzzles the reader must complete, wonderfully unsettling strips of humanity that linger in the mind long after closing the book.

– Craig Bezant, editor Eclecticism E-zine

 Deborah Sheldon’s stories brim and crackle with a sensitivity to the fragile rhythms of ordinary suburban life, where tragic situations and remarkable encounters may be only a few short steps away. This world seen through the eyes of men, women and children and all ages is compelling, gripping, and always honest. This collection of stories is sure to keep you coming back and reading over again and again.

 Mark Rickerby, editor Prima Storia

 In every story we meet a fascinating group of characters, each one reminding us of someone we’ve passed in the street, who lives in our neighbourhood or seems vaguely familiar…Deborah brings each one to life and tells their stories, leaving us very pleasantly satisfied…a wonderful collection of stories.

– Sandra James, editor Positive Words

 These well written stories tinged with humour and strong emotional tugs are a great read…the stories develop quickly with intrigue, drama and a sense of mystery ensuring the reader’s continued interest. I highly recommend Deborah’s book and congratulate her and the production team responsible for its publication.

– Peter F. Pike, managing editor FreeXpresSion

 Deborah Sheldon writes the kind of short fiction people love to read, work that is exciting and concise. She’s sharp, quick and always effortlessly clever with her words and plots.

 Scott-Patrick Mitchell, editor Cottonmouth

These stories, mainly about domestic events, are appealing, even if sprinkled with some gruesome events. Each story is well-rounded and a good read, from an accomplished author – an expert in so many disciplines.

 Trevor Reeves, editor Southern Ocean Review

 An accomplished collection, “All the little things that we lose” observes the intricacies of everyday life. Deborah Sheldon’s writing is assured, vivid and revealing.

– Nicole Taylor, literary editor Sketch

 Deborah Sheldon is a keen observer of the everyday. She writes courageous stories of real people, like the ones we know and the ones we don’t want to know, dealing with familiar issues other writers avoid. Her stories are insightful, with the kind of imagery that stays with the reader long after putting the book down.

– Tiggy Johnson, editor page seventeen

 Deborah Sheldon explores the rich vein of violence that runs through Australian society in this collection of short stories… The merely disconcerting and the deadly are juxtaposed and those who don’t know the difference, pay the price.

– Antonia Hildebrand, editor Polestar Writers’ Journal

CUSTOMER REVIEWS ON AMAZON

Glenys Eskdale: “Well-crafted and worth the read” – 5 out of 5 stars

The joy of reading Deborah Sheldon’s All the Little Things that We Lose is that every story guarantees an engaged response. However, some will cut deeper than others, depending on the individual reader. My favourite was `The Caldwell Case`. Investigating a suspected murder is just part of this detective’s everyday work, until his poignant moment of reflection at the end of the story gives an emotional twist that remained with me long after I’d read to the end of the collection. Each story quickly draws the reader into its world through the deft choice of the right detail to show character and setting. Some stories shocked me, others filled me with delight. All were well-crafted and well worth the read. (30/8/10)

Olwyn Conrau: “A great read” – 5 out of 5 stars

Deborah Sheldon’s short story collection, ‘All the Little Things That We Lose’, is a fine example of Australian contemporary writing. Each story is beautifully written and each offers an original insight into the human condition. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes downright frightening, this book is a true gem. I couldn’t put it down. (13/3/10)

Robyn O’Sullivan: “Arresting reading…” – 5 out of 5 stars

I couldn’t put this book down. Sheldon’s writing is insightful and incisive, drawing the reader into the lives of apparently ordinary people and exposing details that challenge ordinary perspectives. The stories are deceptively easy to read…the impact can sneak up on you, but it lasts a long, long time. (18/2/10)

Michael O’Rourke: “The haunting” – 5 out of 5 stars

All the Little Things That We Lose is filled with stories which are tough and tender, often disturbing and always surprising. Many of them don’t really end – they stay alive and haunt me. It’s the best collection I’ve read for years, bar none. (30/1/10)

Stuart McCallum: “Powerful & provocative insight into everyday life” – 5 out of 5 stars

It is an honour to review Deborah Sheldon’s, `All the little things that we lose’, a selection of 30 short stories. A highly talented storyteller and keen observer of life, Sheldon’s latest work focuses on everyday life in suburban Australia. In each of the superbly crafted stories, she shows the reader everyday situations faced by ordinary Australians. Sheldon does a remarkable job writing convincingly in the voice of men, women and children. As a reader my emotions were on high alert as some of the stories had tragic outcomes—which is true-life. I thoroughly enjoyed `All the little things that we lose’, and I am sure that the stories will have an extended effect. Wonderful book which I highly recommend to all. (23/1/10)

Danielle Clode: “Sharp, funny and slightly scary” – 4 out of 5 stars

This is a great collection of short stories. Sharp, funny and very often just a little bit scary, Deb Sheldon delves past everyday events into the dark recesses of our minds. It’s always interesting to see what’s in there, although I’m sure glad I don’t have to live there all the time! If you like incisive, witty and well-written stories, this is the book for you. (15/1/10)

One copy of the collection was available to win from the Goodreads Giveaway Page from January 19th until February 19th 2010:
http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/2531-all-the-little-things-that-we-lose-selected-stories
921 people entered the draw. Congratulations to the winner, Mechele Rose, of Indiana USA.

 

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