The Loose Lip Brigade — Julia Newman
It appears that short stories do not directly appeal to me at the course of my first reading; hence, it is imperative for me to plunge deeper into them by means of a further examination. Perhaps I merely read each story with such promptness that I completely overlooked the significant points and implications so lucidly situated in front of me?
The Loose Lip Brigade, to tell you honestly, didn’t really move me in any way—at least at first. I deemed the stories nondescript and felt like the characters were too run of the mill to hardly feel anything for them. But then I was wrong. In fact, I felt terribly bad for even considering that.
Julia Newman sets off her collection through a story called “The Hurly Burly”. The title itself justifies the predicament of our foremost character, Ramona. She is tormented by a deep-seated commotion stirring inside of her. A possessive, green-eyed pal, Amelia acts like her name is boldly etched on Graham’s chest. As long as Ramona wants to be friends with her, he’s off-limits. But what if she likes him a lot, would the friendship still matter?
Following Ramona’s bestfriend-versus-boyfriend dilemma, comes a neighbor who is terrified at the thought of being alone in “Breadcrumbs”. She has lost a significant someone once, and now, her dog is missing too. The same feeling of desolation and eternal loss envelops her. The supposedly joyful reunion with Gracie, however, ended up in a saddening conclusion. Sam eventually realizes that she no longer have anyone but a home.
In “This Still House”, Kay feels like his home no longer feels like one. Regardless of having his girlfriend around, Stella seems so distant—an imperceptible being, almost nonexistent, breathing like an imaginary entity. Shortly, Kay decides to fix whatever’s going on in that house, feeling like it’s his responsibility to resolve—not really knowing what to do.
At the onset of the next story, “Dare to Dig”, readers will be hastily presented with the pickle into which the main character, Nina, is subjected to, with a follow-up recount of the earlier events in her life. Sexually active and an alcoholic, she is very much aware of her spiraling addiction. In fact, she wanted change. Pining for a sense of belongingness, she does what everybody does and hates missing out on anything. Her feelings for a guy named Keith troubles her, but another heartbreak won’t do her any more good.
Similar to the earlier story, the central character in “Noel” has a certain case of addiction—Emily is alcoholic and an excessive binge eater. Set on a Christmas Eve, she and Daniel are geared up for a homecoming visit to her parents; except, she doesn’t really want to go home. Sure, she misses her parents and all, but no one could ever help her nor fully understand her. The pills she desperately consumes couldn’t even lessen the burden of her depressive state.
The penultimate story in the collection, “Abandon”, was told though the eyes of two different people, Agnes and Keith (Dare to Dig). Keith finally falls for a girl, but being Peter’s best friend complicates things. This Peter complements the already teeming circle of alcoholics throughout the anthology. Agnes on the other hand is simply a tease, and in return, doesn’t feel anything for both guys. Keith feels the pang of rejection, and mulls over being not man enough to fight for his feelings.
Lastly, the final story called “The Last and Final Thing” brings us back to Nina from Dare to Dig. After losing Keith, she has finally moved on and at the moment dating a certain guy named Tom. However, just like Keith, Tom doesn’t like her the way she wanted him to. It’s as if men are running past her—nobody really stays for good.
Where seven different stories and seven distinct predicaments converge—Julia Newman’s anthology oozes with angst and embraces intense issues that yields an air of despondency, yet swarming with self-worth and realization—even in the most out of the blue and the slightest possible way. The best stories are those that doesn’t really end in a happily-ever-after but those that effectively lures you into the story, with both the reader and the character achieving a sense of fulfillment (once again, even in the slightest possible way). I really benefited from my second round of reading. The profound connection to the characters that wasn’t quite there before rocketed considerably. I felt the tension, the suffocation, the hesitation, and the uncertainties of each character like I’ve stolen their shoes and desperately wore them. In addition, how the characters respond to their own problems were realistically envisioned, like they’re the author’s intimate friends going through hard times. She captured the genuine façade of different people in different states of anxiety which is truly amazing.
A big thumbs up for a highly recommended book. 🙂