Cover Image: Brides in the Sky

Brides in the Sky

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I found this to be quite an enjoyable read from a storytelling aspect as the reader is thrown right into the midst of a story and there is very little to no "dawdling" due to the nature of novella/short stories. The stories are interesting and filled with characters you seek to understand better. In my opinion this makes for a great read, because you can finish one story easily within one sitting. The reader can choose to savor the book by spacing out your time between readings. I think there is a little something for everyone in this read!

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Enjoyed this book. Kept me interested all the way through. Would recommend to a fellow reader. Love the cover.

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Brides in the Sky is a collection of short stories that deal with women’s trials and tribulations throughout history. Frontier stories are included - two sisters that marry brothers and head off to the Oregon Trail; Etta Place, Sundance Kid’s sweetheart tells a different ending to their story; a nine-year old that is kidnapped by Comanche is rescued as an adult with a baby, but finds she can’t assimilate back into white culture. Other stories deal with interaction with sisters and child kidnapping. This books has quite a variety of stories that leaves the reader wanting more. This ebook was provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

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I urge this highly original short story collection on lovers of the form. These are mostly long stories, which invite deep involvement in the stories. I loved the moving title story, 'Brides in the sky' set in the 1850s which explores relationships through marriage and a journey into the American West. An extremely talented writer to watch out for -- highly recommended.

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The eight stories and one novella in Holladay’s collection prove that it’s possible to capture the essence of a place, characters, or event (or all three) in a concise format. Three stories are contemporary, but historical fiction readers should find themselves sufficiently compelled to read them all. Taken together, the theme of women’s relationships resounds: the ties between mother and daughter, or between sisters (blood, sorority, or in-laws).

The title story is named after the Pleiades, the “seven sisters” in the heavens, a constellation that Kate and Olivia Christopher glimpse as they, along with their new husbands and others, venture along the Oregon Trail from Virginia to the Willamette Valley in 1854. It’s impressive how Holladay compresses the epic scope of the journey into 22 pages, including the arid landscapes and accompanying hardships, shifting group dynamics, and one sister’s fateful choice. “Comanche Queen” recounts the well-known frontier story of Cynthia Ann Parker, captured in a Comanche raid and returned to white civilization—unwillingly—two decades later. While her story hews closely to history, that of her family is partly imagined; it incorporates the themes of communication and random chance.

“Interview with Etta Place, Sweetheart of the Sundance Kid” is exactly that, a raw-voiced, too-brief narrative imagining their romantic partnership and what really happened to the pair. “Ghost Walk,” set in 1899 Philadelphia, tells a disturbing domestic story with a welcome, surprising twist. The final novella, “A Thousand Stings,” is written for adults but envisioned perfectly from the viewpoint of eight-year-old Shirley Lloyd. It combines a nostalgic look at childhood pastimes in 1967 Virginia with her observations on local dramas (the controversial minister is a hippie and antiwar protestor), her mother’s ennui, and her older sister’s adolescence. Each story is centered in its era, evoking life’s unexpected joys and hard edges.

(from the Historical Novels Review, May 2019)

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This is a wonderful collection of intimate stories not often told. Beautifully written and tantalizingly detailed, this is a terrific read that should interest women of all ages and men who're interested in them.

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"She was <b>not<b> a weak heroine" , my favourite sentence of the book and a great summary of this great book. Set in Chicago in 1893 Winifred is a modern woman, who is independent! We explore Chicago during the World Fair in a way where we are almost there experiencing it with her. Winnie loves reading (like me), a very active imagination (also me) and a father who is the inspector (not me).
She sees a woman getting kidnapped during the world fair and raises hell and earth to find out what happened. She goes undercover with her crush, detective Jude Thorpe, (dreamy) as protection in, H.H. Holmes' house (I GASPED) as a secretary to solve the mystery.
Shenanigans ensue, romance comes and Winnie is in a whirlwind of a life.
I definitively recommend this novel. READ IT!

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I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Short story collections are hard to rate especially when I was not completely drawn in by them all; though, some where fantastic. The collection as a whole was an interesting reflection on the role of women in society and in family life and how that has changed in the last hundred years. The female protagonists were often very strong-willed, forward-thinking women/girls bound by the constraints of societal norms. In summary, I enjoyed this collection and was entertained by most of the stories.

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This collection of short stories and a novella is a wonder and a delight. Focusing in part on middle-class Americans in the 1960s and in part on women's experiences in westward expansion, the book is full of astonishingly original and evocative description and character realization. In every piece included here, Holladay captures historical contexts and deftly weaves them in with personal crises, concerns, and changes. The women in the stories come of age, detach from family, and grapple with identity in fascinating ways. The historical settings and use of real-life figures mirrors in some ways Emma Donoghue's books like The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits, but the writing is uniquely Hollday's. Revel in this book.

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When choosing a book to read, I usually shy away from short story collections. This is generally because I want something I can sink my teeth into for a longer haul, instead of being consistently interrupted by a sometimes abrupt ending, only to have to shift gears and get into another thinking mode for a different quick read. I do sometimes make exceptions, and I'm glad I did in this case.

Brides in the Sky starts off with a terse tale of two sisters and their husbands, heading west on the Oregon trail, and the difficult decisions they make that form their future. Other stories include a tale of kidnapping in the middle of sorority rush, a fictionalized account of Cynthia Ann Parker, the mother of Comanche chief Quanah Parker, an "interview" with Etta Place, the Sundance Kid's lover, and other stories of women set in varying times and locations. My favorite story was the last one, a tale of young Shirley and her family set in the 1960's, with its descriptions of birthday parties, recess, makeup, and a subtle hint of a mother suffering from depression in the midst of it all.

These stories are all strongly written, yet leave room for readers to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations as to what happened next.

Thanks to NetGalley, Ohio University Press and Swallow Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. 4 solid stars.

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Brides in the Sky by Cary Holladay. If you like short stories about the West you will like Brides in the Sky. Short stories are sometimes nice when you have to stop and restart a book often.

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The stories in Cary Holladay's Brides in the Sky are from another time. Two sisters on the Oregon Trail. Etta Pace. A white woman kidnapped and living with the Comanche returns home.

There is a trail is sadness in each story - everyone is suffering from that strange mix of loneliness and fear. Each person has secrets that have long since been buried.

Holladay is a talented writer (Shades being a particular standout to me) who knows the way around a turn of phrase and is able to cut the heart of the story.

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3.5 rounded up.

I find that short story collections are difficult to rate because I don’t always feel the same about every story. That was the case here, but the underlying common theme of women of different ages, in different places and different times confronting challenges, making decisions made for an overall good reading experience. My favorite is the first story with the same title as the book. For such a short work, telling of two sisters in tough times, facing dangers and adventure, tragedy and hope on the Oregon trail, it’s a terrific piece of historical fiction. As it turned out, the ones that I liked the best were historical. “Comanche Queen” is about Cynthia Ann Parker, kidnapped as a young girl by the Comanches and rescued later in life, but it’s also a reflection of the times and women’s place in it as seen in the character of Katherine. I loved “interview with Etta Place, sweetheart of the sundance kid, San Francisco, California June 1970”. This may not have been the effect the author intended, but all I could think of was Katherine Ross and Robert Redford in the movie “Butcher Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and I could see Etta riding on the handlebars of Paul Newman’s bicycle. There was more to the story, but I enjoyed my reminiscence of that scene. Several of the others were just okay for me, leaving me feeling that the story wasn’t over or not getting it. The ending novella, “A Thousand Stings”, about three sisters growing up in the 1960’s by itself would have been a three star read for me. Overall, a mix, some I loved, some I liked. The ones I liked have me interested in looking at what else this author has written.

I received an advanced copy of this book from University of Ohio Press through NetGalley.

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Goodreads describes this collection as follows: “In the title story, two women in 1850s Virginia marry brothers who promptly uproot them to follow the Oregon Trail west, until an unexpected shift of allegiance separates the sisters forever. Elsewhere in the book, a young boy’s kidnapping ignites tensions in a sorority house; frontier figure Cynthia Ann Parker struggles upon her return to her birth community from the Comanche people with whom she’s lived a full life; and in a metafictional twist, a gothic tale resonates in the present. In the novella, “A Thousand Stings,” three sisters come of age in the 1960s over a long summer of small-town scandal and universal stakes.”

These sounded fascinating, and this was the primary reason I requested this book. Of course, I’ve always been a fan of short stories and novellas, since the shorter forms mean that authors need to be far more concise and focused with their prose. More importantly, this form emphasizes the need for the writer to make some kind of point with their stories. Although most of Holladay’s stories here seem to have some kind of a point, I’m a bit of two minds about this collection. On the one hand, while I generally enjoyed Holladay’s writing here, I think my biggest problem with these stories was that I wasn’t always sure what she was trying to say. This was particularly true with her novella, which felt more like a stream of consciousness journal entry than a story, particularly because the timeline was confusing, with the narrator referring back to things in her past, and then adding some foreshadowing of things in the future. In general, I’m not a fan of foreshadowing especially when I feel that what the narrator is telling us about something ahead of the timeline of the story, could be a spoiler.

Goodreads also said that these “short stories and novella that make up Brides in the Sky has sisterhood, in all its urgency and peril, at its heart. … These are just some of the lives, shaped by migrations, yearning, and the long shadows of myth, which Holladay creates.” I can certainly agree with the migrations part, since it seems to me that the one thing that united all of these stories was about people getting separated from someone or taken away from something (hence the title of this review). Furthermore, Goodreads says that Holladay “crafts [these stories] with subtle humor, a stunning sense of place, and an unerring eye for character.” This too I can mostly agree with, with the exception being that I’m not sure how “stunning” her sense of place was. In fact, in some of these stories, if Holladay hadn’t said so, I might not have known where these stories were taking place or in which era they belonged.

Overall, I felt that the short stories were stronger than the novella, and I think that Holladay has found her niche with them, and should stick with that format. As I’ve already noted, the novella didn’t work well for me, and the parts of it felt somewhat disjointed as well, with some chapters feeling more wholly formed than others. It was only after reading this collection that I went back to look at the title pages and found out that chapters from this novella had been published as short stories in different publications. This made perfect sense to me, and only reinforced my belief that Holladay’s strongest writing comes out when she’s limited to a shorter form.
All that said, I particularly enjoyed the titular story and “Interview with Etta Place, Sweetheart of the Sundance Kid,” which I found to be very amusing, and the most engagingly written. All of this makes me want to recommend this book, but forewarn the readers that there are some inconsistencies here. That’s why I’ll give it three out of five stars, and hope that Holladay can polish her craft for any future collections she decides to publish.

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I love a well-written, cohesive collection of stories and Cary Holladay's is certainly that. The content is intriguing and imaginative, smartly-paced, and at some times heart-breakingly poignant and at others laugh out loud hilarious. From polyamorous pioneers to unhinged sorority sisters, back to another pioneering day oddity: a white Ranger girl raised by Indians, I loved something about every story contained here. My favorite bits were the many reminding me of my own childhood, or the legends, tall tales, and touchstones that I grew up with.

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They couldn’t get the winter out of their lungs, was how Kate thought of her parents’ deaths.

The collection of stories begins with the tale of eighteen-year old Kate and her sister Olivia, twenty. Shocked by the grief of having lost their parents, now tied to land they must learn to farm on their own, either that are get hitched. With a mean harvest, they soon meet two young men, brothers Martin and Andrew heading out West for the promise of gold or better farming. Before long, change arrives as the sisters tie their fate to the men. A journey that will change everything between them, shape their futures. The perils they face on the Oregon trail will force both Kate and Olivia to find strength, when faced with darkness they never could have foreseen.

In the story Shades, Natalie takes a fancy to little Warren and takes him for a ride, ending up with her sorority sisters during rush week. “She was too beautiful and scandalous” and maybe a little criminal. Is she babysitting him? Comanche Queen begs the question, can you really ever go home? 1860, Cynthia Ann Parker is being rescued from her captive, once kidnapped by Comanche Indians when she was only nine-years old, now one of the Chief’s wives, mother to his infant child. After living and learning the ways of the Comanche, now her people too, what will happen when she returns to the world of the white man? Why is she enraged by her saviors? Women’s lives are shaped by luck, good and bad. There are choices that can ruin a life or save it, illnesses that can take children, violence, unwelcome touches and desirous ones. Through the pages of history a woman can disappear or live to ripe old age but never untouched by the times. There is the story with Etta Place, the Sundance Kid’s sweetheart, and her admission of the “wonderful feeling of being chosen” and too she tells of the end that such excitement must come to. The tale end, her great grand-daughter crying, holding her hand and “she grabbed my hand and held on, like I could go back and change things.” Wow! Gut punch.

The best of the stories is A Thousand Stings and I was happy to end the collection immersed in the sister’s lives. Coming of age, chasing after the handsome Ray, the summer of love stirring things up when the preacher in their town begins growing his hair and nails long, strumming his guitar, sweet on a young thing while his wife and daughter are away on a trip. Scandalous! Times are changing as much as the sisters. Their mother’s moods, usually predictable sometimes seem worn out from mothering, tired for all that is to come with her three girls. “It is a cumulative exhaustion she feels, a crushing sense of responsibility.” The story is focused more on Shirley than the other sisters, Patty and Diana but each of the sisters are fully developed characters, as is their mother. Shirley is the watcher, “on guard against harm” of the family. She is the eyes, she knows “when to just listen” too. You forget, as you age, what it’s like a to be so young, dealing with your ever-changing body and only half understanding the adult world, or your own siblings. With Patty, the need to fit in with the girls her own age, to have the perfect party, all that longing for things go right, and how we fear being embarrassed by making the wrong move or our mothers. There is a lot of story in their everyday actions, if you pay attention. The ending is adorable, the rain, the shampoo! It’s the letting go, a release, a ‘forgetting your troubles’ and stealing happiness, a sisterhood of freedom. I would have loved a full novel about these girls and their mother alone! I stayed up just to finish their story. This is an author I will be watching!

Publication Date: January 14, 2019

Ohio University Press

Swallow Press

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Pleasantly surprised by this unknown, to me, author and her short stories about the spirited and hardtack women America is full of. I especially enjoyed the frontier themed stories almost as if the West itself were a character with its detached cruelty and beauty juxtaposed to the women themselves doing their darnedest to survive. While I didn’t enjoy all of the stories as much as those mentioned below, I quite enjoyed the direct and frugal style of writing throughout the whole book.

A few poetic moments from the stories I enjoyed the most:

Brides in the Sky -
“God moved above them, an invisible shepherd, the stars his knowing eyes.”

Comanche Queen -
“She let the laundry fall from her hands. Tears filmed her eyes and spilled over. Her heart was a rockslide, a wagon train, a circle of fire.”

Ebook provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Wonderful collection of short stories.Each one drew me in took me to different places and times unique stories creative endings.A literary collection of short stories #netgalley #Ohioupress

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I've just started to enjoy reading short story collections. Why my tastes have changed, I don't know. This collection was wonderful. I cannot say I liked every story, but I liked most of them and it was because of the author's way of ending them. Some of them had no satisfying endings. I think most readers dislike that. I am not one of those readers. I was sorry when I came to the last story! I did not want this book to end. I will recommend this book to our readers.

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Interesting array of short stories. The stories jump right in and keep you wondering what's next and often leave it at that point. This collection would be a good read for study in a literature class.
I read this book as a complimentary copy from the publisher via Net Galley. This review is my own.

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