A Cup of Roses is a short-story anthology full of charming and refreshing new voices.
A Cup of Roses: Stories by 8 Writers, edited by Fiona Gold Kroll, is a vibrant collection of short stories exploring the diversity of Jewish life and history.
While most anthologies are written around a single theme, A Cup of Roses takes a decentralized approach. The common factor is the contributors, who are all members of a Canadian writers group that meets at Beth Tikvah Synagogue in Toronto. The result is a well-rounded collection.
The thirty-five stories touch on a wide range of topics and employ an assortment of narrative voices. Topics include making matzo balls, relocating to Israel, getting a dog, being a food blogger, and learning to fly a plane. The best stories are the ones in which the writers show a willingness to take risks and explore situations outside of their own experiences. Sam Hoffer’s “Day One” is a spy-versus-spy mini-adventure featuring a Mossad agent and her dog. The pacing is perfect; Hoffer shows admirable restraint when writing suspense, keeping it at a reasonable level and avoiding showy choreography in the action scenes.
At the other end of the dramatic spectrum, Ruth Frankel-Graner features a struggling artist as the protagonist of her story “Blue Plaid.” It opens with a chilling description of disenfranchised and desperate men wandering the streets in search of work—a nice bit of foreshadowing—and ends with a twist that Edgar Allan Poe would have applauded. “Day One” feels like an excerpt from a longer piece, and the plot of “Blue Plaid” seems a little contrived, but both possess an idiosyncratic charm that is hard to resist.
“Too Close for Comfort” is a story about a chance encounter between the dangerous criminal Joe Corbett and the narrator’s parents. The subject is engaging, and the use of the daughter as the first-person narrator is clever. But the prose is antiseptic, consisting of a series of expository statements that tell rather than show what happened.
The stories in A Cup of Roses are uneven in writing quality. A number of them, while their initial premises are interesting, fall short in execution. Some lack character development, while others fail to go beyond superficial plot points.
The anthology format inherently encourages jumping around, and A Cup of Roses facilitates this by keeping its stories short and to the point. This is a book to dip in and out of, not read straight through from cover to cover. It offers charming and refreshing new voices.
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