Short stories can take us on journeys that connect us with people and places of all kinds…
Her Safari: Snapshots Along the Way
by Lisa Mikitarian
Reviewed by Elizabeth H. Cottrell
5 stars out of 5
What makes good fiction? The answer, of course, is completely subjective, but the fiction I most enjoy includes one or more of the following criteria:
- It entertains, thrills, or fascinates.
- It offers unusual vividness of language or imagery.
- It reflects noteworthy insight into human nature.
- It incorporates unusual powers of observation.
- It connects me with experiences, thoughts, or emotions I wouldn’t experience otherwise.
- It enlarges my capacity for understanding or empathy.
- It causes me to reconsider or rethink my worldview.
The short story is known to be a challenging genre because it requires that delicate balance between enough and too much. The short story writer does not have the luxury of time and space to develop characters or narrative. Every word counts.
Her Safari, the debut collection of short stories by Shenandoah Valley author Lisa Mikitarian, is one of the reading highlights of my year, with all of my “good fiction” criteria on display in one story or another. Some dear mutual friends urged me to attend a book signing, and I bought her book to show my support for a local author. Little did I know it would be so engaging!
Each of Mikitarian’s 33 stories is a snapshot of a different woman dealing with a different life challenge or decision. Each story depicts women of all ages and all walks of life, and each is a delight in its own way. Some of their situations are desperate and serious; others are silly or highly amusing. Some involve a crisis or lesson of faith. These are done well, without preaching. If you’ve had some decades of living under your belt, you will recognize many aspects of your own life reflected in the pages of Her Safari. You may find that you can laugh at yourself, or forgive yourself, more than you could before you read these insightful tales.
A quick review of my margin notes will, I hope, reveal some of the pleasure this book gave me:
- Effective use of both humor and pathos
- Lovely analogy
- Hilarious! (in the story of a woman flirting with her doctor while under the influence of Percocet, the registered trade name for a mixture of a acetaminophen and oxycodone)
- Hilarious pettiness in the conversation between sisters
- Great image: God swatting with a wet towel
- The power of words, good or bad…
I am most impressed with the wide range of viewpoints and emotions so vividly portrayed by this author. I don’t know Lisa Mikitarian yet, but she is someone I want to know. She has a remarkable ability to observe and appreciate people in all their flawed beauty.
New York Times best-selling author Jason Wright’s book cover endorsement was perfect: “Lisa Mikitarian is more an artist than a writer. In Her Safari, every word feels hand-drawn into place. The short stories are brilliant in this stunning debut.”
You can find Lisa Mikitarian online at LisaMikitarian.com. Earlier posts were done with her daughter Maddie (together they were the Mik Chiks). The posts deliver “offbeat advice for everyday conundrums.” Get ready to smile. Follow Lisa on Twitter (@Dandelionfleur) and LinkedIn. The wonderful cover design was by Shenandoah Valley artist Holly Cooley.
What does this book have to do with the Heartspoken life? In a very real way—from the comfort of your favorite reading chair—each story connects the reader with a situation or emotion that offers a glimpse of truth, insight, or inspiration. Once again, I am reminded of the power of a well-told story.
When has fiction helped enrich your life? Please share in the comments below or join the conversation on Elizabeth’s Facebook Page.