With the nights drawing in an the air getting colder, it’s time to wrap up warm and enjoy a good book. A Baker’s Dozen is perfect for those cosy evenings by the fire. Thirteen stories, some with more than a touch of darkness and others with a tinge of the supernatural, but all are told with Mary’s heart-warming charm.
The stories concern themselves with the moments where lives interact and things begin to change. There’s both pathos and humour in the collection, and Mary captures the best of human nature as well as its less savoury moments. But for everyone there is redemption, and what’s more, a real sense of hope.
There the sinister coalman who is exerts his influence over his family and the community, the moralising librarian with a nasty streak, the woman whose mysterious powers demand good customer service, and other fascinating characters.
Many of the stories deal with illness, whether of the mind or the body. The final story, ‘A Sunbeam’ is a beautiful tale of loss, release and love, and the bonds that we have with those we love, even after we die.
Family bonds and the ties that bind are also present in many stories. ‘A Family Broken’ examines the aftermath of a family row that ends in tragedy. What happens in a mere moment can change our lives forever, and for this family it is something that will never ease.
On a lighter note, the charming ‘Would Mother Approve?’ sees a successful director realise that her late mother is giving her a standing ovation in the form of white feathers. We are never forgotten: love remains. This is the powerful theme running throughout the collection.
Not every character has a happy ending. With Mary’s customary mastery of the twist in the tale, and a lovelorn girl working in bar who never quite manages to work up the courage to speak to her Prince Charming comes to regret it. But to say more would be to spoil the simple, yet delicious twist.
The topic of abortion has been to the fore more than ever in recent months in Ireland and ‘A Secret Farewell’ tracks a young woman’s lonely journey to London to end her unplanned pregnancy. My own favourite story has to be ‘A Mysterious Customer’ where a surly waitress gets her comeuppance at the hands of a woman who may or may not be a witch.
For those with a love for short stories looking for some escapism, A Baker’s Dozen is perfect fare...