cover image And Yet They Were Happy: Stories

And Yet They Were Happy: Stories

Helen Phillips, Leapfrog, $14.95 trade paper (314p) ISBN 978-1-935248-18-7

Milestones—emotional, familial, biblical—feature heavily in Phillips's imaginative debut. The stories are organized around themes—floods, fights, punishments, "the Helens"—and embark on marvelous flights of character and metaphor: in "flood #2" as the waters are rising, a despairing Noah walks into a bar, muttering, "I didn't get them all," while in "fight #2," a battling couple repeatedly take on bizarre transformations, he, for instance, into a rainstorm and she into a fire. The narrator of "fight #5" invites a statue of the Virgin Mary to a cup of tea, only to feel sharp disappointment at Mary's remarks regarding the narrator's emotional needs. The "far-flung family" episodes consist of an anecdote about ancestors building a covered wagon and heading west, and one about the king's daughter who has married "the clever yet dirty craftsman." "The envies" concerns the jealousy of two sisters of "The girls in Maxfield Parish paintings," while "mistake #5" compels the narrator to find Santa, only to be rebuffed by the bitter old man. Mothers, weddings, and monsters are all treated with irreverence in this cunning work that winks at reality as it carves out its niche deep in fable territory. (May)