Reviewed by Gail Galvin.
G. Elizabeth Kretchmer, the author of Women on the Brink, ignites an adventurous yearning we have all experienced in our lifetimes—the dreamy idea of running away. She quotes Edward Abbey: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
For participants in life who choose to truly live, rather than comply with a safe, “quiet life of desperation,” eventually an “on-the-brink” crisis seems inevitable. Such are the cases woven within this anthology of intriguing short stories. Combined with poetic soul-searching vistas and an extremely versatile literary range between mother-and-daughter-like connections . . . and at times a Quentin Tarantino lingo-like boldness, Kretchmer tells her edgy tales.
As a restless kid who lived in Indiana with a railroad track directly behind our house, believe me, I can relate to many of the characters on the brink. I dreamed many times of hopping on a slow-moving train and wandering off to some crazy new adventure or destiny. Well, readers like me get to live vicariously through these stories and do just that. While reading, I felt the angst, the soul-searching, the brave daring spirits, and the desperation—and always hoped for the best. Yet, like true-life situations, we cannot always expect happy endings. This writer knows that and does not shy away from imperfection, failure, and great sadness at times for her characters. However, many do succeed in securing more fulfilling destinies.
One incredibly wild ride involves a first-day-on-the-job truck driver named Roxanne. Frustrated and on-edge about spending years as an accountant in a “God-forsaken cubicle in the heart of Kentucky,” suddenly she finds herself in a very bizarre, dangerous situation. A skinny, scared teenage girl stowaway in her “Peggy Sue” Class Eight sleeper truck is in a run-for-her-life scenario and begs Roxanne for help. Although her hot-off-the-press trucker’s license and life quickly become in jeopardy, too, she races for the Canadian border. Yet, the “bad people” are in close pursuit and want their precious, moneymaking teenager back!
The variety of story lines and the flawed, multi-dimensional, realistic characters, make this book a truly evocative, entertaining read. For instance, how often does a young mother admit that she is not embracing motherhood? In fact, she wants to float away on a boat just like Tom Sawyer.
The notion of suicide surfaces in another story titled, “Alligator Poetry.” A mother, with a family, feeling empty inside, wants to end it all—and almost does. However, she recoils from the brink—just in time—thanks to a last minute phone call that offers her a chance for a renewed sense of purpose and self-worth. So Gillian packs her bags, leaves a letter and family behind, and only glances “at all those dead poets” stacked on her book nightstand, before taking off for a volunteer job in Oregon.
Each story—every character—touched my heart. I felt very sad when empathizing with someone’s shortcomings, and absolutely thrilled when a daring soul changed her life for the better. The author of Women on the Brink dares readers to walk in complex shoes—to laugh, love, and sometimes agonize and emotionally bleed right along with the characters she has so masterfully created.