In Springtime on Mars, a collection of eleven short stories, Woodring delves into the lives of very different people and their hidden desires, fears, wishes, and secrets. From an estranged father who doesn’t quite know how to interact with his teenage daughter, to an elderly second-marriage couple coming to terms with their new life together, a woman who lusts over the bag boy at the grocery store, and a woman who loves a boy that no one else can.
While these stories couldn’t be more different from one another, the common thread throughout them all is the introspective look at what makes ordinary events extraordinary to the individual–the way that the person handles the death of the President, the way that a woman yearns to know her place within a new family, the way that a young girl searches for acceptance and care from her neighbors. On the surface the events in the stories are mundane, but the honesty that Woodring explores within her characters is what makes this collection one that can be appreciated by a range of people.
I marked several passages throughout the book where Woodring takes a simple event and shows how it emotionally affects the character. In the below example, the main character has had an emotional breakdown in the middle of the grocery store:
“Maud dabbed at her eyes with the tissue Donald had handed her and she wondered where it came from. He was not the kind of man to carry tissues, and now, he had given her one and he was moving his hand, rubbing lightly across her back. The picture came to her of what Donald himself had looked like in high school, the person he had been, and she saw his clam, quiet manner, him sitting at the back of every classroom… She thought of his birdhouses in the backyard, of how he had let the children god, of how he stood on the porch and looked back at their house and found something new to start each time. She wondered if it was the same with her, if she ever seemed new to him, if there was anything more for them to do with each other” (97).
I don’t know that it is the best example of what I am trying to get at, but it shows the quiet way in which the reader can see the innermost thoughts of the character. I didn’t love every story in the book–I felt myself drawn more to the character’s whose emotions I could really relate to, but because of the wide range of emotions, I think that all readers can find a little bit of themselves in these stories. Because the stories are so deceptively layered, I think this would be a great selection for a bookclub–nothing fantastical happens in these stories, but in a way I think that makes these stories more relatable and real. Overall, a pleasant and enjoyable read.
**Part of Blog Stop Book Tours–check out the website for more information on Springtime on Mars and Susan Woodring