They Could Live With Themselves is a collection of eleven short stories set in the small town of Stark Run, Vermont. Each story is a complete narrative and a satisfying read. However, in reading each story sequentially, we are drawn into the community of Starks Run and the lives of the characters that inhabit it.
Sky is one such character. In the first story, "Molly Sings the Blues," we meet him as the youngest son of Molly and Jack. Molly is the central character, an empty nester, searching to redefine herself. Reading subsequent stories, we get to know Sky as boyfriend, employee, student and artist. In "Mabel, Mabel," Sky is a student and Emilie's boyfriend, but the central character is Emilie's younger sister, Charlie. The story focuses on Charlie's life as she adjusts to the absence of her mother who is in rehab and hospitalized. In "The Physics of Light," we meet Sky and Emily again and Sky is portrayed as a student artist. Sky is the central character here.
Paloni makes use of the different roles of characters developed in the various settings in Stark Run to create strongly independent points of view and stories. As the network of characters becomes increasingly complex, the setting expands to include many small town venues. With the reappearance of familiar characters she is able to subtlety weave the connectedness of these characters and build community in her fictional town.
Paloni's storytelling is descriptive, detailed, and intimately understated. The elements of her small town are noteworthy, but it is characters that will be remembered long after this book is finished and shelved. I read this They Could Live With Themselves straight through, much as I would a novel. And while the ending offers satisfaction and closure, I cannot help but wish for more stories about the folks in Stark Run.
Jodi Paloni is an International Coaching Federation and Gestalt Study Center certified coach, specializing in helping writers with strategies that move plans and projects forward. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of literary journals including, Carve Magazine, Whitefish Review, and Literary Mam. They Could Live with Themselves is Jodi Paloni's debut collection of short stories. Visit her website.
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