Debut author offers 14 well-crafted tales
"Out Across the Nowhere" is the award-winning short story collection of debut author Amy Willoughby-Burle. From the beautiful cover art by photographer Kevin Adams to the last story, "Into the Burn," Willoughby-Burle's book takes readers on a magical literary ride, full of beautiful prose, interesting characters, familiar settings and haunting themes. Although it's a short book, less than 100 pages with 14 stories, it's a book you will want to read again and again — especially if you're a lover of language and well-crafted tales.
Thirteen of the stories first appeared in literary magazines and anthologies, such as the MacGuffin, Summerset Review and Potomac Review. The title story, "Out Across the Nowhere," won first prize in the 2010 Press 53 Open Awards for flash fiction. Press 53 is the publisher of this collection.
Willoughby-Burle states in her author's note that she's thankful to God for giving her "a wild imagination and a love of language and literature," (although she was not blessed with mathematics or physics skills). It's obvious she is a skilled writer: Her passion for storytelling is on every page.
The award-winning story, "Out Across the Nowhere," tells the adventures of two brothers on the night of the Fourth of July when their parents are "drunk on amaretto sours and each other and they forget about us." They slip away from a party unnoticed while "ash sifts down from burned-up fireworks exploding in the sky."
The thing is they wonder if their parents will notice they aren't there at all. While they have imagined adventures, they keep wondering if their parents will look for them. In the end, the boys are in the backyard, and their parents are sleeping — never missing the fact the boys aren't in their beds in the next room.
This is just one story that leaves you thinking about the characters and themes — and life.
"Into the Burn" introduces readers to a freshman girl whose mother is the outcast in the town, and she is figuring out which man in the town is her father.
"Bottle Caps and Spanish Gypsies" is about a college-aged girl who decides to abandon all responsibility and her college classes to experience the world with a young man she meets at a gas station.
"The Conspicuous Absence of Knowing" explores what happens to a grown child when her father dies, her boyfriend is distant and ready to break up and she is the glue to hold her mother and sister together.
Willoughby-Burle has a knack for presenting the reader with harsh reality but disguising it with a bit of humor and a lot of grace. She's not afraid to explore the darker side of life, but she's not trying to sensationalize the lives of single mothers, college dropouts, alcoholic parents. She's telling the truth and exploring how this truth affects the loved ones in our lives.
Besides being a writer, Willoughby-Burle also is the editor of an online literary magazine, Blue Lotus Review. She states on the website (http://bluelotusreview.com) that "Blue Lotus Review, following in the growing trend of online journals, is a place for artists of many different mediums to add another notch to their belt. We look for literature, art and music and more that speaks out loud to us and then continues to whisper to us long after."
Willoughby-Burle writes, edits and lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children.
If you love short story collections, "Out Across the Nowhere" will leave you smiling and wanting more. Willoughby-Burle is an author to keep track of.
Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle-grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/). Formerly from East Central Illinois, she lives in St. Louis with her family.