Review by Lindsay Denninger

The Expanse of a View by Polly Buckingham
University of North Texas Press
Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction
November 28, 2016. Paperback. 196 pages.
ISBN: 978-1574416473


The mind can certainly be a terrible thing—it cheats us, it lies to us, and sometimes it makes you think that everything is just fine when it's all falling to pieces. Such is the case in Polly Buckingham's The Expense Of A View, a Katherine Anne Porter Prize In Short Fiction-winning collection of short stories. Its characters struggle to live with their present circumstances because of the traumatic stress of their past. The pain, loss, and alienation are tough to bear, but they are very human in nature.

In "Honey," the death of a neighbor's dog reminds a woman of the unrequited love she left behind when she moved into her one-horse town. In "Void Of Course," a young woman grapples with her sister's mental illness and death, and perhaps she shines a bit of light on her own in her remembrance. In the collection's title story, a woman habitually fills her suitcase with nothing and dumps it into the river. Is it because she can't hold relationships, or because of traumatic events in her childhood between her parents?

The work is heavy, but Buckingham's prose is weightless, flowing in and out and up and down in order to tell her stories. The content, too, is somewhat depressing, and things often are not going well for the book's characters. However, glimpses of hope abound, saving the work from too much doom and gloom. It shows that even in the darkest of times, everyone needs a little bit of light.