Homemade Weather (Retreat West Books, 2021) is an anthology of the three winning entries in Retreat West’s annual novelette-in-flash competition. A novelette-in-flash is essentially a mini-novella composed of linked flashes (or short-shorts), with each chapter or section being up to 1000 words.
Included in the anthology are the 1st prize winner Homemade Weather by Tom O’Brien, What the Fox Brings in Its Jaw by Ian O’Brien and The Impossibility of Wings by Donna L Greenwood.
These moving narratives create three completely different worlds in beautifully distilled prose. The main characters are vivid and credible, presented as they are with the detail and depth of emotion we would expect from much longer novels. Human relationships with all their complexities are explored in intriguing ways.
In Homemade Weather we see the world through the eyes of Celia Finn. Her astute observations of the goings-on both in and out of the family home are superbly handled by Tom O’Brien. “When I check the sky for signs of violence, cycling home, I find it on the other side of the mountain, brewing ominous cloud,” says Celia. Her intriguing claim that she can “Sign parts of [her] life away to someone else” keeps the reader hooked till the last page.
What the Fox Brings in Its Jaw is a masterful exploration of a man’s life through a single defining moment and the tragedy that follows. We learn that “It had started, as always, with little things,” and, gradually, the life of the unnamed protagonist unfolds before us. A heart-breaking story told from multiple points of view, it uses flashback to merge the past with the present in dream-like sequences.
The Impossibility of Wings brilliantly depicts the tensions and difficulties of a resentful mother/daughter relationship. The protagonist, the eldest of four children, is caught in “the sticky mess of family garbage” and longs to escape from the vicious circle she is caught in. When she finally gets on the coach to London where she will study at university, she “can feel [her] wings unfurling with every mile [they] drive away.” But it is only at the end of the novelette that we are reminded that there are two sides to the story and “there’s a thin line” between them.
Nora Nadjarian is a poet and writer from Cyprus. Her work has been included in various international anthologies, most recently in Europa 28: Writing by Women on the Future of Europe (Comma Press, 2020), the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology (UK) and in SAND journal (2021).