Season of Apples
In Season of Apples, Ann Copeland’s new collection of stories, the author proves herself masterful at evoking the rich content and drama in what would otherwise appear to be simple incidents and humdrum lives. In all but one of the stories in this engrossing and rewarding collection (and that, an amusing and moving fable and parable, which is excellent, but out of place here) Copeland, an American ex-nun living until recently in Canada, mines the everyday minutiae of ordinary lives to create narratives that subtly carry both emotional and philosophical truths. Her strength is to draw the reader into the lives of her subjects, their hopes and fears, and make us sympathetic to the weight and gravitas of everything they experience, however inconsequential.
Consider the first story in the collection, “Mother Love,” which is exemplary of Copeland’s writing. Compressed in a few thousand words are the history and the secret of men and women contentedly, but not passionately, engaged with each other, as comfortably married old Hap daydreams of passion with a beautiful younger woman, while surprising himself at his fierce pride in the sudden mother-courage of his lovable, silly, feather-headed wife. It is both moving and revelatory in the way that it finds triumph and equilibrium in the acknowledgment of small felicities as stand-ins for greater passions.
In other stories, Copeland hits the nail squarely on the head time after time. Copeland’s characters have warmth, resilience, and understanding--or they achieve those qualities--in a world of odd interstices and unexpected challenges to their conception of who they are, what they know, and what they are worth. Stones are not rolled away, nor do scales fall from their eyes, as they edge their way through the situations and experiences she presents them in, and yet each reaffirms a sense of self, and finds some moment of strength, some germ of understanding, on which to build and move forward.
Sometimes that is enough; often it is the only thing. Usually, it’s the affirmation we need to enable us to put one foot in front of the other again. In these stories Copeland’s success lies in showing how her characters do that, and, more importantly, why.