Publication date: May 1, 2013 by Aqueous Books
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Old friends uncomfortably reunited and lovers who cling to their distance from one another; disappearing fathers, fiercely loving grandfathers, and strangers who pass through and radically change lives…These are among the characters who populate the rugged Midwestern landscapes of the mesmerizing fiction world of Ron Parsons. In his debut collection, The Sense of Touch, Parsons captures people of various ages in the act of searching for meaning and connection and themselves. Firmly set in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan, the lush but often brutally cold heartland of America, the eight stories explore universal themes–loneliness, betrayal, transformation, hope–in fresh, sometimes fanciful, sometimes comical, sometimes jarring, and always moving and memorable ways.
In The Sense of Touch, readers will meet:
* Naseem Sayem, the brilliant, troubled, and mystifying young man at the center of “Hezekiah Number Three.” A native of Bangladesh abruptly transplanted to the stark white suburbs of Rapid City at age nine, Naseem never fit in and eventually moved on to study physics at MIT–where, shortly before graduation and after shocking news of his father’s infidelity and abandonment, he apparently unraveled and vanished. Three months later, he reappeared out of the blue on his stepmom’s doorstep, holding a three-legged cat. Naseem’s long search for belonging reaches its apex in a hot air balloon floating over the Crazy Horse Monument.
* Waylon Baker, wheat farmer from birth, and Evie Lund, his wife of twenty-four years and counting, even though she had chosen to live far away–in the alien world of the Twin Cities–for eight years. The odd couple at the heart of “Beginning with Minneapolis,” Waylon and Evie can’t bear to live together or to divorce because they still love each other with a passion, reignited when they find themselves deep in the dirt, in a hole Waylon dug in his wheat field to serve as Evie’s grave.
* The nameless narrator of “The Sense of Touch,” a serious, young freshman at the University of Minnesota, fleeing yet still attached to his youth in Texas, haunted both by its predatory demons and its romantic dreams. His liberation comes through an alluring muse: his fiction-writing teacher. A ravishing, wild-haired, Memphis-born African-American graduate student, Vonda speaks directly to him when she makes her dramatic pronouncements. Like, “Our masks are not worn, people. They’re grown, day by day.” And “Never trust anything, not until you can touch it. With touch, you know you know.”
The old friends in “The Black Hills,” long separated by distance and tragedy, who unexpectedly compete for the affections of a lovely, vulnerable, and married Lakota woman…the young woman who, in the midst of a Halloween blizzard, stumbles into saving an elderly piano teacher’s life and faces hard facts about her own snow-bound relationships and emotions in “As Her Heart Is Navigated”…the exceptional grandfather in “Big Blue” and the playboy reformed by someone else’s grandson in “Moonlight Bowling”…and the professor of dead languages facing the mysteries of mortality in “Be Not Afraid of the Universe”… Through Ron Parsons, they all come to life, vividly and with emotional resonance, and work their way into the minds and hearts of readers.
I don't read short stories very often - I tend to read novels. That said, I do enjoy good short stories when the mood strikes. I was fortunate enough to receive The Sense of Touch for review, and found it to be very intriguing. Naturally, I enjoyed some stories more than others, but I found the collection as a whole to be quite an interesting read. I enjoyed the locations where the stories take place: Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota. I live in Wisconsin and I could really relate to the descriptions of the landscapes and weather and the people in general.
I absolutely loved the detailed descriptions in the stories. I was constantly intrigued about the choices of detail. I found it most enjoyable to read a story and then just let it simmer. I found many of the characters would pop into my mind throughout the day. It was interesting because many of the stories had details of what seemed to be random events in a random life, but these events would continue in my thoughts long after finishing the story.
I find it difficult to discuss a book of short stories whose only link to each other, that I can find, is the concept of relationship. All the stories deal with different types of relationships and different aspects of relationship. The only way I can describe these stories is - you know how life goes along and you get into a routine, and then some small event, a person, something, nudges you just enough that you have to pause and for an instant or for a moment or for a day, you have a slightly different perception of your life and the people and things around you? That is how these stories affected me.
I found the first story, "Hezekiah Number Three", and the last story "Be Not Afraid of the Universe" to be two of my favorites and particularly fitting in their placement. I think the first one sets the tone for the collection and the last story brings it to a fitting if somewhat sad end. "As Her Heart is Navigated" is also one I particularly enjoyed, though it is hard to say why exactly. I found the descriptions in this one to be very thought provoking in their detailing of the seemingly mundane aspects of the day. Simple, stark, almost. I just really like it.
The Sense of Touch is one of those books that I would just tell my friends to read it so we can discuss it. I hesitate to describe too much of the stories for fear of influencing the opinion of the reader. They need to be read and savored and contemplated.
About Ron ParsonsRon Parsons is a writer living in Sioux Falls. Born in Michigan and raised in South Dakota, he was inspired to begin writing fiction in Minneapolis while attending the University of Minnesota. His short stories have appeared in literary magazines and venues such as The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Flyway, Storyville, and The Onion.
The Sense of Touch, his debut collection of stories, was released by Aqueous Books in 2013.
Find out more about Ron at his website and connect with him on Facebook.
Ron’s Tour StopsMonday, February 3rd: Lavish Bookshelf
Tuesday, February 4th: Books on the Table
Thursday, February 6th: Booksie’s Blog
Friday, February 7th: Every Free Chance Book Reviews
Monday, February 10th: Chronicles of a Country Girl
Tuesday, February 11th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, February 17th: A Book Geek
Monday, February 24th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, February 25th: Great Imaginations
Wednesday, February 26th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, February 27th: Books and Things
Monday, March 3rd: The Mookse and the Gripes
Tuesday, March 4th: Priscilla and Her Books
Wednesday, March 5th: The Road to Here
Thursday, March 6th: Melody & Words