Scratched Enamel Heart is a collection of twenty-four short stories by Amanda Huggins, recent winner of the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry collection for The Collective Noun for Birds (Maytree Press, 2020).
‘Where the Sky Starts,’ the first story in the collection, opens with a beautifully descriptive sentence: 'If you stood on the pier with your back to the sea, looked beyond the beached fishing cobbles, past the cottages, away to the south of the steelworks, you would see a bright green ribbon of land.' This sets the tone for the entire collection, which is rich in description of setting, whether it be the 'golden domes gleam[ing] under a bright autumn sky' in Russia (‘Nothing like Letter to Brezhnev’) or 'the manicured profile of each tree mirrored in the still water until a single dappled fish broke the surface' in Japan (‘A Potential Husband’).
Themes running throughout are love and loss, often teetering on a knife’s edge between the two. In ‘Part of Sami, Part of Malik,’ Malik cares for Sami like a son even though they 'hadn’t known each other back home,' but when Sami’s mother resurfaces 'Malik began to drown in the ocean of blood pounding in his ears.' In ‘Uncanny,’ Alan has his hopes raised by a waitress in a café, only to have them dashed again. The tension between the couple in ‘Listing’ is immediately apparent, their 'smiles brittle' as they eat 'overcooked sole and yesterday’s bread.'
Interspersed with the longer stories are flash fiction stories, tight and terse, capturing pivotal moments in the characters’ lives. In two of the flash fiction stories, ‘Strong, Not Rough’ and ‘Pretty,’ the main characters are young and Huggins has captured teenage angst and inadequacy to perfection.
Scratched Enamel Heart is a beautiful collection that will take you on a journey through time, across land and sea, and deep into the hearts of her characters.
About the reviewer
Laura Besley writes short fiction in the precious moments that her children are asleep. Her fiction has appeared online, as well as in print and in various anthologies. Her flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, was published in March 2020. She tweets @laurabesley
You can read another review of Scratched Enamel Heart on Everybody's Reviewing here.