The first half of On Traigh Lar Beach* (Traigh, pronounced “try,” is Gaelic for Sandy, and Lar means Floor), is about a Scottish writer who wins the prestigious British Comstock Writing Contest. “Erica Winchat, First Place, Short Fiction: A book of towering achievement, equal parts critique and passion.” Erica’s elation is short lived as she can’t imagine what to write her next story about. Self-doubts and feelings of inadequacy overwhelm her. Her husband refuses to accept her pessimism.
He takes her to their favorite beach for a week to celebrate her achievement. On the last day, as they walk along the beach, they come across a jumbled cache flotsam (debris) tangled in seaweed: a cigarette lighter, a jar of pickled onions, the handle of a child’s bucket, a rock-concert laminate badge, and nine more random items. Erica creates a unique story about each of the thirteen eclectic items, each story completely different from the others. But then, with her husband telling her every day, ‘You can do this, Erica,’ how could she not?
Twelve of these stories go into the first half of the book. The second half is a novella titled Fan Girls, created around the thirteenth item. The author uses famous quotes to introduce Part One and Part Two of Fan Girls. These set the tone for the story.
Fan Girls has a well-developed, engrossing plot involving four women of similar ages but differing backgrounds who are obsessed with Raine, the lead singer in a fictional 80s rock band called Dartha. Layers of social problems are woven into each character’s story.
Dartha’s music gives courage to rural Ohio’s Emily, an abused wife and young mother. Will it be enough for her to escapes her raging husband with her two teenage children?
Annie is handicapped, requiring the use of crutches and a leg brace, and is very unhappy. So she lives in a fantasy world as Raine’s girlfriend. She travels from Chicago to Edinburgh, Scotland to try to make it real. Her friend Chelsea hangs on Annie’s every word of her romance with Raine. Then Dana, the tough, foul-mouthed editor of the longest-lived fanzine, Conversations spills the beans about Raine’s upcoming marriage to a beautiful young woman. Annie becomes unglued and chaos briefly reigns.
On Traigh Lar Beach is a fun and engrossing book of connected short stories. The pacing keeps the reader turning the pages and these characters stay with the reader long after the last page. All fourteen stories are excellently crafted. This book will appeal to anyone who’s ever been a super-fan, as well as those who enjoy variety in their reading.