In What Nell Dreams, a masterful collection of sixteen short stories and a novella, Anne Leigh Parrish once again paints the lives of ordinary human beings in all of their poignancy, magic and verve. – Jacob M. Appel, author of Einstein’s Beach House.
In a world full of glittering descriptions and minimal consequences, a pair of twins engagingly explore questions involving love, career, and family.
Readers will almost feel the wind in the protagonist’s hair as she sets off for adventure. A meandering tale, made enjoyable by the author’s rich renderings of characters and their quirks.
Women Within is an intricate and engaging examination of three women connecting in an unlikely situation with flowing prose, stellar characterization, and vivid scene setting in a small package that’s sure to stick with you long after the last page.
Marvelous. Honest. Generous. From the first story to the last, "By the Wayside" catches your attention and demands that you give into its every whirl. Each character unfolds with a precision that will have you wondering how Parrish managed to create such real-to-the-bones people within a world that captivates you with ease.
In her fine debut novel, What Is Found, What Is Lost, Anne Leigh Parrish explores the meaning of motherhood, faith, loyalty, and tenderness; effortless, she carries her readers through four generations of one family's checkered history of love.
Through stone-cold sentences and imagery that is stark, but never barren, Anne Leigh Parrish examines the difference between the heartbreak we are born into the heartbreak we willingly seek out.
Parrish weaves linked, darkly humorous tales of aging, death, love and alcoholism using the gothic tropes of Southern literary fiction. A successful collage of linked stories set in a rich, dysfunctional world.
Anne Leigh Parrish is one of the best of a new wave of American short story writers reinvigorating the form. Many of these writers specialize at flash fiction– a genre at which Parrish is a master. She also, however, excels at stories of more traditional length. Her tales, long or short, are highly readable but also convey intelligence and meaning...
Chris Seppe – Five Stars
At first glance, “The Amendment” appears to be a sad book because it’s about loss and grief. But after reading the very first pages, I realized this novel is everything but a downer!
Lavinia is a badass woman in her fifties who likes to booze it up and who once had a crush on her stepson. When her second husband, Chip, dies unexpectedly, Lavinia tells her grown children and friends that she is taking a cross-country road trip. While driving alone, she has a lot of time to think and to reassess her life. She ponders many things, such as wondering if she were ever a truly caring person. While on the road, she meets people who are really struggling financially. By marrying Chip, Lavinia came into wealth so on more than one occasion, she simply hands out the hundreds to these cash-strapped strangers so they can get out of their monetary binds. She has the money, so she figures, why not? I got teary-eyed during several of these exchanges!
Lavinia’s warmth also shines through in the scenes featuring her housekeeper, Alma, who had already been hired by Chip as his live-in housekeeper when Chip and Lavinia married. Some of my favorite parts of the book are of Lavinia and Alma hanging around the house, drinking wine together. Even though Lavinia is now technically Alma’s main boss, Lavinia still treats Alma like a human being first.
Even though “The Amendment” contains scenes of Lavinia being exceptionally caring and altruistic, the novel in no way paints a portrait of a perfect human being. Parrish has a particular talent for crafting very realistic, strong, female characters without trying to portray them as perfect angels. They are still flawed and have room to grow, but they are always survivors no matter what life throws at them. Lavinia deals with the pain of life through humor. We know there are tears behind the humor, and Parrish shows us this, but the humor in this book makes it such an enjoyable read that I couldn’t put it down! I highly recommend “The Amendment” for anyone looking for an entertaining read that also has an enormous amount of depth.
San Francisco Book Review – Five Stars
Constance Maynard is 92 and living in the Lindell assisted living home. When we meet her, she is druggy with prolonged Ambien use and being cared for by the 50-something Eunice and the 20-something Sam. Most of the story follows the independent-minded Constance as she muses over her past, interspersed with her interactions with the women she comes in contact with present-day. Besides Eunice and Sam, we learn about Maeve, Lois, Meredith, and many other women.
For all of Constance’s adult life she stood for women’s rights. This led her to focus on her career over a man and to adopt and care for Meredith while single, never saying that the child was adopted and not Constance’s natural-born daughter. Her point was to flaunt the stigma as a way of saying “this is stupid, and there’s nothing wrong with being a single mother.” In her waning years, Constance wants to turn her childhood home into a center where women can go to learn basic life skills and find mutual support among other women.
I loved learning about Maeve, the Gaelic granny who gave Constance the tapestry of Womanhood. This tapestry depicts the supposed defining moments of a woman’s life–maidenhood, betrothal and marriage, motherhood, widowhood. The tapestry represents what a woman’s life must be relative to men and contrasts with the actual truth of what a woman’s life can be, as exemplified by the generational grouping of Constance, Eunice, and Sam themselves, reflecting the Triple Goddess aspects of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The Goddess aspects are free from ties to men and supposed male superiority, the attitudes of which women are still being forced to deal with today. A woman needs no husband to be a mother, and having no husband, there isn’t the inferior aspect of widow defined by the husband’s death, but instead there is the wise and powerful Crone.
The tapestry itself is a treasure passed along from woman to woman over generations, spanning the Victorian era to the modern and probably even older. Many different women have contributed to the crafting of the tapestry. What a weight of time and continuity is represented by this beautiful artifact! And as Constance to Sam, the women create a generational chain, so Meredith adds a parallel…a tassel in the living tapestry, if you will, in her true relationship to Constance.
Parrish’s Women Within is well-wrought, containing dazzling, lyrical prose that will draw you into living memory, into the heartbeat of generations of women. This is a story, a vibrant tapestry of stories, with many lessons to offer. Perfect for those interested in women-centric stories and stories empowering to women.
Strong Women, Thought-Provoking Stories
I had the privilege of receiving a free advanced copy of this book, no strings attached. Anne’s greatest strength is capturing her character’s thoughts and feelings in actions. She never over explains, yet we know all we need to about her characters. And what characters they are! Anne focuses on women, but she doesn’t fall into the clichés. Most of her female leads are not “likeable” in the stereotypical sense. A.k.a, they are not boring, one-dimensional American sweethearts who never do anything questionable, never complain, or never get into trouble of their own accord. They aren’t demure victims; in some cases, they are the victimizers. And yet, we root for them no matter their flaws. Even when we don’t agree with them, we feel the pain that led them to those decisions. We understand their desires. We feel close to them, and so we cannot help but relate on some level, even if what they’ve done makes us cringe or sigh or want to turn away. You will meet many women on your journey through these stories. Some you may relate to or cheer for more than others, but all will arrest your attention and hold it fast until their tale is done.
Beautiful, inspiring, and populated by real people
This is an almost perfect collection of short stories. Each one is filled with beautiful detail and populated by amazingly real and diverse characters. It is extremely impressive the amount of character development that Parrish accomplishes in just a few short pages of storytelling.
Furthermore, the stories themselves draw you in. Each is a window into a person’s life. Most share empowering tales of people taking control of their lives. They leave an uplifting impression, particularly after so easily sliding into the characters’ lives.
It’s a fairly quick read that I would highly recommend. Truly, Parrish is a master of character creation. She spins what is usually detrimental to creating true individuals, the short story format, into a real advantage. And she accomplishes this heavy task all while sharing compelling stories with strong themes. The only thing you’ll regret is how soon each is over; just as you get comfy walking around in those characters’ skins, their story is done being told.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.
Parrish is a master wordsmith
I’m struck by the talent that Anne Leigh Parrish holds. She is a true master of words, able to place the reader in the middle of the mundane while making it all seem new.
Parrish has done a fantastic job of creating authentic characters, both good and bad. I found that the younger two generations of Freddie and Beth resonated with me more than the older two women, Anna and Lorraine. I’m not exactly why that is the case, but I do know that Lorraine was an especially difficult character to enjoy. Freddie is undeniably the “star” of the book, however a large portion of the novel is actually about Freddie’s mother, Lorraine, and her grandmother, Anna. By introducing the past generations, it feels as if Parrish trying to understand Freddie’s modern situation by looking to the “sins” of the past. It’s a bit of a stretch, which might explain why I didn’t care as much for the two older characters. In the end, however, this look back does shed light on Freddie and the generational family dynamics, as well.
While this book centers heavily around each generation’s search for God, I don’t feel it really is about God and religion at all. Although several religions are featured in this book and the woman chasing each religion is changed, in the end What is Found, What is Lost is about the women themselves. Each woman is actually searching for themselves, a perfect identity, a reason to believe in themselves. What is Found, What is Lost is more about the human condition, and a search for love and acceptance, sometimes at any cost.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this title from the publisher for the purpose of a review, however I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.
Parrish’s exceptional prose in this debut novel creates sympathetic portraits of two sisters whose over-the-top evangelical mother has taken off to follow a revival minister on the road… on in older age as they still struggle with trying to fit in with mainstream America and still have to deal with their mother, who aside from being an obsessive evangelist is an alcoholic. Now, as the older sister has become a widow, with Parrish’s masterful characterization, we see how the sisters are still trying to fit into mainstream society.
Anne Leigh Parrish’s “Our Love Could Light the World” is a fine short-story collection …
Anne Leigh Parrish’s “Our Love Could Light the World” is a fine short-story collection about the disparate, often-sad members of the Dugan family in Upstate New York. Parrish strings together a realistic (if not always kind) view of the thinking and drama which carry these characters through the years.
The gem is Angie’s growth from rebellious, foul-mouthed teenager to caring and responsible adult. She also proves herself to be quite capable–a quality which, with wincing hilarity, her divorced parents utterly lack.
Through numerous missed attempts (at most everything) and the drinking, slights, ploys and shots at happiness, we find often-enjoyable people with keen insight and honesty. This is a family best viewed from across the room.
A great collection of linked stories, wandering from character to character throughout a family that is FULL of “characters”. I loved how as the book progresses we get a more complex, nuanced view of some of the characters, building on first impressions. The father and eldest daughter were particularly fun to follow. There’s a line in the description about how the family is quite entertaining from a distance which made me wonder if the book was going to be poking fun at them – but while their foibles and shortcomings are out there, and sometimes humorous, that’s not the case at all: they’re told in a generous, empathetic manner, really getting into the characters’ mindset and treating them with humanity and grace. I would have happily read a few more, but the collection feels complete and satisfying.
Compelling and Thoroughly Engaging
I first read Parrish’s novel, “What is Found, What is Lost” and became an avid fan. This collection of short stories did not disappoint. The stories were well paced and interesting, the characters complex. What I found most compelling was her ability to shift points of view. Most writers are comfortable and competent with only one or two, but Parrish is equally adept at all. She has an innate sense of which will create the most compelling storytelling. She is a writer’s writer, but the reader needn’t be versed in the craft to appreciate and thoroughly enjoy each sentence, paragraph, and story.
A very readable collection of short stories
The stories in this book are very well crafted and very insightful of the human condition. My personal view is that the short story genre is the epitome of the writers art and the author has succeeded in providing snapshots of people of differing ages in various conditions and situations. I found this book to be very readable and I highly recommend it.