I may have mentioned before how much I love Alex Brightsmith’s writing. I have, in my possession, a short piece she wrote for an Anthology Club anthology that never made it out the door. That piece of writing still haunts my dreams. To the best of my knowledge, she’ s still not published it elsewhere, and I consider myself very lucky indeed to be among the few souls to have read it.
That other piece of writing was quite short, more sketch than full-fledged story, and yet still managed to evoke such a profound sense of melancholy and longing that it has stayed with me to this day. I thought that maybe it was the brevity of the other piece that lent it its poignancy but here, in this longer and more fleshed out narrative, I felt the same feelings; loss, poignancy, wistful remembrance… I’m not sure exactly what to call it, but Alex is an absolute master at evoking those feelings.
It occurs to me, by the way, that I haven’t exactly been reviewing the stories in the traditional sense. I’ve not been giving much in the way of plot or character details. Partly this is because these are short stories and there are only so many details you can give before you’ve given the whole story away, and partly because I find it more interesting to talk about the feel of the story than the bones of it. But I feel like I should at least make a nod towards that sort of thing, so:
This story centers around Chrissy, an old acquaintance of Glint from the last story. The events of this story and the last happen at the same time and, in fact, the two stories share some of the same plot elements, albeit from different viewpoint characters. Chrissy is a blast survivor, and has kept herself apart from the new world as it has built itself back up. She is forced to confront the walls she’s built for herself to keep the world out (the walls in the title are metaphorical ones), and to question her wisdom in building them in the first place.
Oh, and a character dies.
The feeling I’m always left with after reading an Alex Brightsmith story is one of sadness. Pleasant sadness. Optimistic sadness. Bittersweet, contented sadness. The sadness of what might have been. She really is one of my favorite writers ever.
The book is available at Lulu.com in paperback and e-book formats. The e-book is no longer free, but all proceeds from either format go to Water is Life, so you should buy it. It is also available at Barnes and Noble as paperback and for the Nook, and at Amazon (paperback only, e-book coming soon).