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Louisiana Story Hour: The Southern Cross

16:02 April 23, 2020
By: Kim Ranjbar
Image: whereyatcom_244310919.jpg

Born in New Orleans and raised in Covington, Louisiana, author Bruce Maclachlan "Skip" Horack, Jr. is a former Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University. Released in 2009, Horack's debut, short story collection The Southern Cross, won the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize and the author was hailed by NOLA.com's book editor Susan Larson as a "storyteller of uncommon talent" whose stories are "artfully evoked and deeply felt."

From small towns all over Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama and Texas, Horack draws stunningly vivid pictures of life, love, hope and disappointment in the sixteen stories of The Southern Cross. The reader is helplessly drawn to the characters in such a short period of time, some stories only spanning a few pages. Unique to the American South, the tales will particularly resonate for local readers.

There's an undeniable flow to the collection as a whole, pulling you from story to story, but there are singular tales, ones that shine brighter than the rest. "Junebelle" depicts the life of an elderly woman in a retirement home somewhere near Baton Rouge. June is a persnickety woman who keeps to herself, internally criticizing her children and grandchildren's life choices. She's terribly lonely and stand-offish until she meets a nice gentleman while having her evening cocktail and the home's small bar. The tale warms the soul with its postcard-perfect imagery and settings.

Another stand out was "The High Place I Go". A cheating husband has driven a nurse into the arms of one of her patients, a paraplegic. The affair with her patient lasts for several months until she finally decides to take the RV and run off with her lover, only to quickly realize she has come full circle.

Separated into seasonal chapters - spring, summer, fall and winter - each glimpse in The Southern Cross was deceptively simple, rich with passion and emotion, just like any good short story should. Often short story collections tend to lack the popular appeal of novels, but one would find it difficult not to enjoy these colorful, moving scenes of life in the Gulf South.

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