Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Thirteen by Jennifer Leigh Gladden

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This is a short story which unfolds in an unexpected way.

Diana is thirteen years old, a young girl who should be on the verge of treading the troubled and stormy waters of teenagehood.  But she has to deal with her single alcoholic mother and look after her younger sister.  She regularly fleas from the house for short periods to avoid yet another confrontation with the string of men her mother brings home and finds refuge in the company of an elderly gentleman, Mr Alston, mourning the loss of his wife, who died some years previously.  Diana is wise beyond her years and they somehow help each other with their losses:  Mr Alston with his lost love, and Diana with her burden of responsibilities.  With Mr Alston's help, it becomes clear why despite her efforts to cope, she finds it all a struggle.

Jennifer Gladden manages to pull on your heartstrings in this story with the innocence of the young, the strength of an unquestioning young girl helping her mother (she is after all thirteen) and the poignant relationship of two people sharing their grief.  It’s a nicely balanced story with characters who find the resources from within them to cope with life’s tragedies.

Although the story deals with the less pleasant parts of life, it and the brave Diana draw you in right to the end.  If you like short stories, I recommend this one.

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