Congratulations to Heather A. Slomski for winning the Iowa Short Fiction Award this year for The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons. This collection amply shows Ms. Slomski’s talent in her craft, and her deep expertise around the human heart. She renders a series of tableaux in a melancholy palette, but always combines subtly new hues from one story to the next. While it’s a careful balancing act, there’s also a highly assured quality to all the entries, and a ranging ambition: to illuminate subtle tells between lovers, to aspire to fairy tale, and to plumb the depths of serious delusion.
There are fascinating entries here: the woman whose lover returns to her in the form of a cricket – or that’s her belief, anyway; the retail clerk who converses with, and offers to run off with, a store mannequin. Some snippets capture the seemingly inevitable strife between two strangers, particularly the brief “Octaves,” while others deal with the issue in a lengthier form, especially “The Neighbors.” The finest entry in the collection, “Corrections,” a highly satisfying and beautiful story, captures a couple’s halting, ineffective attempts at intimacy, using the stunning symbolism of Douglas Miller’s drawings.
This is a series of stories written in the key of the blues, but without music’s cathartic release. They show unerringly the clumsy and short-sighted self-interest that thwarts love’s connecting impulse. What’s left is simply loneliness. Sensitive, observant, and thought-provoking in the extreme, this collection adds Heather A. Slomski’s very able stories to all the other prize winning short fiction emerging from the University of Iowa.