Possum Trot, by J. Harley McIlrath
Remember the feeling of the first teenage date you had that went well? When they trusted you so much, that from their stories you learned more about the other person than you ever could have imagined? You shared their dreams, their joys, the perils that they faced and the obstacles they overcame? Maybe a belly laugh or two, and possibly a tear? And an element of sadness shared that implied an unexpected intimacy and the associated responsibility that comes with that? Where the stories of their past and their present and future merged, maybe with yours?
Possum Trot is like that first date — with the state of Iowa. Stories of past, present and future, good happenings and ill, come together in an intimate way that we, as reader, become part of. Artfully written, compelling narrative after compelling narrative, the end of each story leaving the reader longing for the next one–after a deep breath and thoughtful pause.
If you’re an Iowan, some of the characters will seem familiar, like people you know but maybe not as well as you thought you did. Some of the stories speak of an Iowa that is now just a memory to some of us lucky enough to have seen it. Others speak of a contemporary Iowa that may not be quite what we want it to be. But, in fact, the past wasn’t quite what we had hoped for either. And that’s part of the beauty of this collection, past and present merge, and here we are–and were.
I’m a short-story fan, and read hundreds each year. Unlike many, this collection will stay in my memories for a long time. Like those of a good first date should.
Reviewed by Bob Leonard, October 2010