I guess I took my Summer of Shorts to the logical extreme today, reading Maria Schneider‘s short story “Year of the Mountain Lion”. I found it to be an interesting and well paced story, ambiguously straddling the fence between historical fiction and fantasy. It has a strong female lead character who avoids many of the cliches, being neither “spunky heroine” nor weak-willed girl in search of a tall, dark, dangerous, but sensitive man. Rather, she was someone who just happened to be a woman dealing with the hand life had dealt her as best she could. (There was one cliche: the cover art has the main character wearing less clothing than would likely have been practical; but at least the proportions were reasonable.)
The ambiguity I mentioned is that it felt to me like a story taking place somewhere in the American southwest, involving pre-Columbian natives. But there are hints of fantasy elements, and nothing definitely pins the story to that locale or time. Sometimes I want clarity, but this is one of those occasions where the ambiguity worked, including the resolution of the story, which left me wanting to know what happened next to the two main characters.
“Cursed as a drought-bringer, Jolan lives a harsh life of nomadic exile in the desolate desert that surrounds her former home. Now, though, she is being hunted by those who have already cast her out for purposes she cannot fathom. Unfortunately for her pursuers, Jolan is not helpless and she is determined to survive.” (Amazon.com product description)
One other question the reader will need to answer for him- or herself is whether buying an individual short story is worth it. I generally prefer to read collections, and in doing so you generally get more stories per dollar. But in this case it gave me a quick and relatively inexpensive way to try out a new (for me) author. (Okay, I confess, I got a free review copy; but that’s almost as much as ninety-nine cents.)