Home » The Write Stuff » Treading The Uneven Road Stories by L.M. Brown

Treading The Uneven Road Stories by L.M. Brown

I grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood. Our house, and our family, rode the gap between the very Irish parish of St. Mark’s, and the parishes and ethnic groups to the north and east. Though we shared some cultural heritage, the mix of Irish-Scots-German in our background made us something of visitors to the “real” Irish families that spilled out of the homes closer to the church: the many children, the statues of the Virgin and the portrait of the Sacred Heart that adorned every room, the laughing (though occasionally morose) father who always seemed to have a beer in hand after work, and the organized-but-harried mother who kept a hand on the tiller and an eye on every child, and the names Maureen, Cathleen, Brian and Brendan recurring in family after family.

Later, reading Irish literature and learning a bit about Irish myth and legends, I learned that, like most cultures, the Irish have a way of expressing themselves —the words, images, turns of phrase— and a fondness for subjects, that seem to season much of Irish writing.

I found it all, the life and the literature, enchanting, a little mysterious, yet for all the magic ultimately very earthy (though that isn’t quite the word – there probably is one in Gaelic!).

That is how I would describe this volume of short stories by L. M. Brown. There are elements of the stories that are quintessentially Irish as I remembered Irish to be: the images of the saints, the tangle of family, the influence of alcohol, the weight of mother and the uncertainty of father. And there are elements that are certainly the writer’s own – imaginative and slightly hard to grasp.

The stories are loosely connected in that they all take place in a town in Ireland that progress has left behind, and the attempts at those remaining to make sense of where to go, what to do, and how to cope.

The first story, for example – “The Lady on the Bridge.” In the first sentence we know a great deal in a very few words: “Bernadette noticed the address book on her way out of the bedroom on the floor amid her husband’s crumpled clothes.” The rest of the very short story is all about communication, and the lack of communication, things said and unsaid, the damage done by families and to families, and the possibility of redemption always hinted at, represented in a statue weeping with rain.

If the first story is a study of a husband and wife that ends enigmatically, the second is an intricately knitted tale of two brothers who reverse place again and again over time. Who is the leader, who the protector, who the strong and which the weak? And no, I didn’t see the end coming, though Our Lady stands guard over this story, as she did the first.

Some of the stories have you paging back and forth to understand – Brown doesn’t hand her tales to you filleted and explained. You have to pick for the bones, and enjoy the imagery, the “flutter of clothes” as people enter a room, the sight of a bowed balding head seen from above, the shift of focus from one set of eyes to another without warning or even a clear indication that we are now viewing the scene from the other side of the room.

Throughout the stories there are hints at the locale, the council houses and narrow streets, the pub at the corner, the genteel shabbiness of a kitchen, and the ever-present icons of faith that watch from sightless eyes. Just published and available for purchase at Amazon, the collection was, for me, a perfect St. Patrick’s Day treat.

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.