As Russia continues to invade neighbouring Ukraine, it feels particularly poignant to be reading – or in my case rereading – Hannah Storm’s flash collection, The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing (Reflex Press, 2021). One of its main themes is the effects of war – on individuals and what they lose as a consequence, or on a rare occasion gain, although hardly ever through choice. Further themes explored are the power struggles between men and women, and violence against women in particular, as well as the kaleidoscope of experience and emotion surrounding motherhood.
The opening story, ‘Sarajevo Rose,’ is directly about war and the displacement Damir suffers where his name no longer means peace, but ‘scorn’ and ‘stranger’ and ‘the soiled sheets of a bedsit he [can] scarcely afford.’ Even stories not directly about war are peppered with war-like phrases, such as in the title story: ‘[h]e weapons his words’ and ‘the sound of its freedom pops like gunfire.’ Or in the case of ‘The Huntsman,’ a story about a teenager’s first French kiss, there is a distinct feeling of battle, or enemies fighting, as a ‘terrified’ Sarah locks herself in the toilet and ‘pray[s] the lock will hold.’
‘When I go to war, they loan me a flak jacket, a big blue thing designed for men’: ‘Bulletproof’ is one of several stories about women reporting on warzones, being forced to survive, and forced upon, in a world dominated by – often dominating – men, mined presumably from the author’s own journalistic experiences.
Combining the themes of war, displacement and motherhood is the story ‘Behind the Mountains, More Mountains’ in which the main character ‘[gives] birth to a daughter, the child of men, the child of a history and country she would never really know.’
The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing is a deep and heartfelt collection, which never shies away from the painful experiences of war, its effects, and those affected by it.