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More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson

Harper Perennial

By Larry Gross · December 16th, 2009 · Lit
For the past 20 years, author Barb Johnson has been a carpenter in New Orleans. Luckily for us, the reader, she’s put down her carpenter tools and has picked up pen and paper. In More of This World or Maybe Another, the Bubble Laundromat in mid-city New Orleans serves as a backdrop for nine astonishing stories. We’re introduced to an assortment of characters including Delia. In the title story, set at a high school dance, Delia starts to question her sexuality thinking her best friend Chuck (Chuck’s a girl) might be more than just a friend. Other stories in this collection follow her journey to her real self.

We’re also introduced to Delia’s brother Dooley, a goodhearted fellow who learns life’s lumps the hard way. In “If the Holy Spirit Comes for You” we find him helping a newborn pig named Reet. Reet was a breech birth, and loving Dooley attempts to help him walk in a straight line instead of stumbling around in circles. He’s trying to save the young pig’s life from his heartless farmer uncles. In fact, Dooley has plenty of heart, even in “Killer Heart” when he innocently leaves his small daughter Gracie in the car with the windows up while going into a department store to purchase a new car-seat for her. With these characters and others, there’s plenty of despair and sorrow, but Johnson isn’t sentimental about it. She lets the reader come to his or her own conclusions. Johnson wrote most of these stories while living on her balcony after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. One senses she knows about difficult times that she tells so effectively in her writing. For those who think the short story format is dead in literature, you should pick up More of This World or Maybe Another. You’ll be rewarded with superb storytelling. Grade: A



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