Seventy Percent Water by Jeanette Sheppard

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‘At some point, someone or something is missing from their lives.’

This is the short quote that greats you when you go to Ellipsis Zines page about Seventy Percent Water on their website, and I’d have to say that this short quote nails what the flash fiction collection is all about.

Something is lost, something is missing, whether it is a life lost to dementia, a childhood lost to extenuating circumstances, someone’s quest for belonging or the troubled path of finding themselves; each of these fragile stories is woven majestically by Sheppard as she showcases lives that have something missing, the husks of lives that remain and the quest of restoration in whatever form it takes.

Sheppard’s words are poetic, one would liken them to a soothing balm for the mind or soul – each sentence is constructed with a deft touch and layered with feeling, emotion and power. Sheppard’s words are emotive, but each phrase, each sentence is carefully constructed and crafted – there is not a wasted word within the collection. Which in turn makes Seventy Percent Water a beguiling collection that pulls at the heart strings whilst wrapping you in a tight embrace – I’ll be honest, I wanted to spend more time with her words, but the time I did spend will not be forgotten easily.

But with all collections there are the stories that one is drawn to more than others, and for me, the stories within the collection that focused on dementia, the losing of ones mind and all they had once been were the gold dust sprinkled throughout this flash fiction collection. They moved me, they enraptured me and this may have something to do with personal taste (also I have a grandmother who is going through this so possibly in some osmosis effect – they seemed to strike home that much harder, like an axe to the head) but I love the way that Jeanette writes about the fallibility of the mind, how she deconstructs a life with the subtly of her words, and in the mess she paints beautiful passages that offer a glimpse of a life lived and the devastation of a life left to waste away. How Jeanette sews hope into the stories is masterful – and it’s something many of her protagonists cling to as do those reading her words.

There were some stories that I loved more than others, and I would have liked the possibility of a more succinct narrative running through the stories – but having said that this is a collection not a novella-in-flash – but it’s personal taste really. The collection is still a great read and a fine introduction to Sheppard’s work – also making me want to read more, so I’m delighted in learning she has another book she is working on.

Sheppard also shows her range with this collection too, there are a couple of weird fiction tales that I really enjoyed such as ‘Trumpets‘ and ‘Electric Cafe‘. So if you are looking for a flash fiction collection that focuses on relationships, especially those that are familial and the quest of belonging or finding what is lost then this is one for you.

Seventy Percent Water is published by Ellipsis Zine and is available here.

Jeanette Sheppard

I’m an award winning flash fiction writer living in Warwickshire, UK. I’m also an artist.

Seventy Percent Water is my debut collection and is published by Ellipsis Zine .

Beyond publication of my collection I will be continuing to develop my novella-in-flash ready for submission to publishers in the autumn. Mother Jellyfish was Highly Commended by Ellipsis Zine in their 2019 competition.

My stories have been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. You can see a list of my writing credits, along with links, by visiting my WRITING page.

I am now in my second year as artist-in-residence for National Flash Fiction Day. In my role I create artwork for the annual anthology.

If you’d like to see some of my artwork please visit my ART page.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery


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