Peace and other stories is the debut short story collection of Meryl P. Moorhouse, a writer and blogger who grew up in Wales and currently resides in Yorkshire. I discovered Moorhouse’s writing through her blog, Childhood Memories of Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. As a fellow Baby Boomer, of course I was interested. I’ve particularly enjoyed learning about the similarities and differences between growing up in the US at that time and growing up in Great Britain.
Moorhouse’s blog is engaging and thought-provoking, so when she announced that she’d just published a book of short stories, I had to buy it! I’m glad I did because of the people I met in this slim volume of thirteen stories. Some of the people were kind, others judgmental, still others broken because of the secrets they carried. All of the characters were living, breathing people brought to life in vivid detail on the page: John Jones, the train station master at Llanbwthyn Station in Mid-Wales; Hannah Wilde, an elderly woman whose house is full of teddy bears; and Beth, a young woman volunteering at a homeless shelter longing to find the father who abandoned her years before.
Moorhouse is particularly good at first lines, which I always appreciate. Here are a few of my favorites from the collection:
From “Painted Lady”: “Phyllis arrived at the Nightingale Resthome in a flurry of fur, jewelry, perfume, and lipstick.”
From “Crown Jewels”: “The Crown was one of those pubs which was usually described by what it wasn’t and what it didn’t have, rather than what it was and had.”
From “Desmond”: “Desmond shambled along the footpath carrying two full buckets of feed; grain in one hand and grass clippings in the other.”
I also appreciated the stories that were resolved with a surprise ending characteristic of O. Henry’s stories. While these stories ended with a twist, the surprise endings were nonetheless believable and not the result of coincidence manufactured off-stage by the author.
The standout of the collection for me was the title story, “Peace,” set ten years after the end of World War II. John Jones is one of the most likable characters I’ve encountered in fiction in a very long time. I was drawn to how much he appreciates the life he has, seeing trains safely through the station and tending to his plants, his beloved roses in particular. The conflict in the story arises when John encounters a man on a bridge who should not be there.
Peace and other stories was altogether a very enjoyable read! I hope you enjoy these photographs Meryl provided to accompany this post.