What Solomon Saw and Other Stories by Mary Dean Cason
A fantastic collection of eleven short fiction pieces, Mary Dean Cason’s What Solomon Saw and Other Stories guides the reader through a tenderly-woven patchwork of tales that focus on key moments in the lives of a colorful array of woman characters. Largely set in the American Carolinas, the stories also fly us from New York to Chicago to California, and even across the pond to a Europe in the throes of WWII. Gleefully swinging somewhere between the genuine whimsies and kitchen-sink-realisms of life, Cason’s tales cast a generous gaze that offers nuanced glances on race and class, gender and sexuality, religion and community, childhood and parenthood, death and new life.
Each of the stories in What Solomon Saw is a gem on its own, possessing a wholeness of vision and an interior strength that make it worthy of adoration – this reviewer’s personal favorite was the stupendously beguiling “Rich as Pluff Mud”, but there is a cohesion of something-freshly-startling and something-warmly-familiar in each piece that makes it valuable and lends it a unique flavor. Strung together, Cason’s stories resonate sonorously with each other, and across the multicolored narratives a singularly powerful voice and generous perspective irresistibly emerge. Adapting itself to the needs of each story, Cason’s writing navigates a fine balance between literary elegance and fluid speech, and is always purposeful and clear-eyed. There is a wonderful economy here – Cason never tries to give us too much, but lets the stories build and blossom, allowing the reader to grow and learn and evolve with the tale, participating in a wondrous filling-in of intriguing blanks. Each piece pulls us into its world and moves forward with ease; by turns witty, tragic, thrilling, and sweet, they always unfurl with qualities that engage us directly. What is most poignant about What Solomon Saw is the way that it succeeds in capturing the elemental magic and existential significance of every-day scenarios; each story smacks of authentic and compelling truths beneath its slice-of-life descriptions, and then culminates in moments of subtle philosophical beauty – reading them feels like a journey not only in space and time, but also through the elasticity of the human spirit.
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