I always say I don’t like short stories, but maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, Wetzel’s stories took my breath away. Marlene Reed Wetzel was the winner of the PEN/Amazon.com Short Story Award for ‘A Map of Tripoli, 1967′. Fortunately this story is included in the anthology I’m reviewing, Strangers & Exiles. You can find quite a bit about her award winning story but very little else out on the Internet. It looks like the big bookstores don’t carry this book but you should be able to find it in a local book store or from the publisher.
Back to what I was going to say about the book. Strangers & Exiles tells the story of women inhabiting a world where they survive as strangers to their families, to their land, to their husbands and even to their bodies. Men come and go like desert mirages.
“There are only two kinds of men in the world,” Mantini says. “Men who pretend to love women before they marry, who actually love only themselves.” “The other,” he says, “never forgets from where he came.”
From childhood bullies, to abandonment abroad, the women survive, sifting through debris left by careless relationships and tragic circumstances. They are exiled to foreign countries and exiled at home. The stories provide an interesting introduction to the Middle East (Before Gadhafi) where the people are always on the verge of change, yet cling to an ancient way of life. I disagree with the quotes on the back cover. I don’t think of her women as “risk-takers” but rather women thrown into the quagmire and hanging on for dear life. Wetzel’s writing leaves you craving a new page, a new story. Images remain long after the final page.
Read this book by Oklahoma author Marlene Reed Wetzel, make yourself a believer in the power of short stories.
*Only negative, Out on a Limb Publishing allowed many careless publication errors. Wish publishers would do a final read before sending it to print.