Finding a Way by Diane Simmons

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I think it’s safe to say flash fiction collections are a somewhat rare commodity. And unless you’re immersed in the world of flash – both as a reader and writer – it can be difficult to find collections that truly explore the different ways in which flash can be done. Of course, you can stumble across gorgeous flash fiction collections that embody various stories through thinly linked themes, however the beauty of ‘Finding A Way’ is that Simmons works with the form and connects it together. Flash is short, that’s the point, and it’s a joy to read a collection that takes moments of the everyday and ties them to create a piece that feels truly whole.

Published by AdHoc Fiction, a ‘short short fiction press’, ‘Finding a Way’ is perhaps more a chronicle of grief than a mere collection of loss. Death is in abundance, yet where such themes can become convoluted, getting knotted up in a realm of heavy melodrama that would make the scriptwriters of EastEnders blush, Simmons navigates it with a deft touch.

Told from various points of view – Liz, Sam, Christopher, Jake – each tangled in the web of 21-year-old Becky’s death, the flashes take us from May 2015 to September 2018. The snapshots of life explored with the longevity of the years allows us to travel with the characters as they navigate the grey areas of grief and all its facets. Because that’s what grief is – grey, confusing, absent of conclusion, directionless and sometimes awful with little end in sight. And in some cases, more often than not, grief never really ends.

For those of us who’ve experienced loss – death specifically, and I imagine there is many, you’ll understand just how complex it can be. Simmons understands this too. The characters come to life in such ways that you feel like they could be your next-door neighbour – you, even, because she gives them the ability to form complex emotions about the complex situation. There’s no simple statement of ‘I’m sad because the situation says I should be and here’s why’, there’s more – the anger between mother and son over routine, the strength of a marriage that’s experienced the loss of a child, there’s a husband trying to move on and the heartache that brings to all those around him. It ripples throughout the collection, and we observe from up close.

Finding a Way’ explores the everyday elements of loss – the flashes deftly told by Simmons, with touches on the familial without ever becoming heavy handed. Simmons doesn’t offer her characters the answers and it works all the better for it. There’s mileage in her characters too. A testament to a wonderful writer who knows when to give detail and when to hold back.

Finding a Way’ is a neat collection, enjoyable as it is emotional.

Finding a Way is published by Ad Hoc Fiction and is available here.

Diane Simmons

I am a writer, editor, a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day and part of the organising team for Flash Festivals UK. I have been an editor for FlashFlood, a reader for the international Bath Short Story Competition and have judged several flash fiction competitions. My debut collection of flashes Finding a Way was published by Ad Hoc Fiction  on 9 February 2019. The collection is a series of linked flashes on the theme of grief.

Reviewed by Emily Harrison

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