Rift by Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan is a collection of short fictions that alternates between the two authors. I am familiar with both writers work. I have earlier reviewed Vaughan’s Addicts and Basements and Fish was a consulting editor on Queens Ferry The Best Small Fictions 2015 which I reviewed this last summer. Both writers are well published and this joint collection is both their fourth individual collection.
Small fictions or very short fiction is a unique writing that tells a complete story in few pages or less. Whereas short stories seem to drop a reader in the a middle of a story or pull them out too quickly, short fictions present a whole story. Much like poetry can convey ideas that exceed the words used, short fiction does the same. This collection does not disappoint.
The authors alternate their stories throughout this collection in chapters named after escalating geologic events. It won’t take the reader long to identify the which author they are reading. They both have distinct styles that are very hard to confuse. Fish starts off with the tone of an east coast Catholic upbringing. From the nuns and Catholic school to the guilt that follows those of our generation of Catholic upbringing all surface in her writing. Vaughan tends to be darker and grittier and in his writing. There is something hidden just below the surface that is secretive and possibly even sinister. With both writers there is a hook, more pronounced by Vaughan, that wraps the story tight, sometimes squeezing the breath from the reader. That turns a short ordinary “memory” into something fascinating.
The two writer’s work play well off each other. The alternating of stories keeps the reader’s mind fresh and moving from one author to the other. They complement each other perfectly. Touching to twisted. Light to dark. Fish seems to reveal common strong feelings between people that make one smile and Vaughan something altogether different — “Birth of the Giant Sand Babe” to “Fling ~ Fatigue ~ Rejection. The writing is very human in feeling and very real in the ups and downs of a complete life. Each author’s writing is exceptional, but combined together, it exponentially transcends the individual works. Powerful, gripping, startling, and impossible to put down. Definitely, a bang to end this year’s reading list.