Driving in Maine, the scenery is dotted with factory smokestacks, small towns, fairgrounds, colleges, laundromats, tidal mudflats, river banks, oddly remodeled homes and trailers. Passing drivers may know or wonder about those who people our stark and rugged state. Elaine Ford’s 15 short stories contained in the volume “This Time Might Be Different” (Islandport Press, $16.95) will, with a specificity of detail and character, intimately transport the reader to these places.
She starts us out with “The Depths of Winter,” a story that follows Kori, who has worked welding wreath rings since she graduated from high school six months ago. We see the “honeycomb of cubbies,” and the shag on the river with their “wings outstretched to dry like they were pinned to a line by their elbows.” We hear the “pounding roar” of the factory, its lunch buzzer and the “gumboots thumping on riserless steps.” When the monotony of the factory, a Maine winter and living with her mother close in on Kori, she makes decisions that even she questions.
Through Ford’s stories, we befriend women who give in to male desires by simply not saying no; women who chase change and find only fallible men; women and men who deceive themselves or who talk past each other—letting needs and dreams go unrealized.
Amy is one such dreamer in the story “In the Marrow.” Still in high school, she falls for Jack, an older man who may love his dream of breeding award-winning Labrador retrievers more than anyone—especially Amy, who leaves her grandmother’s home to be with him. When faced once more with the room she inhabited as a teen she is “sickened by the odors of unaired bedding, cold rusty water in the radiator, nail polish remover, pink acne cream, underarm odor, dime store cologne, foot powder spilled on the rug.” Ford’s attention to the sensory is unrelenting and render the setting and her characters as real as our neighbors.
Elaine Ford—author of five published novels and countless short stories—was a Topsham resident and UMaine writing professor. She died last year at the age of 78 from a brain tumor.
In every story, Ford’s characters insist we pay attention to the dark and grey corners of their lives. She presents her characters in decisive moments: stay, go, act, retreat, lie, tell the truth. None of the stories preach a correct path. Instead the reader watches decisions unfold while warning, cringing, cheering and never turning away. Ford won’t allow it. Her prose hooks and reels in the reader.
Anna E. Jordan (annaejordan.com) is a writer and editor. Follow her at
@annawritedraw for news about #kidlit, rowing and politics.