Home Improvement

Home Improvement_BarbaraCoolLee_18872579




Kim Bishop is a new widow, her husband, Bryce, having been killed in an auto accident. After the funeral, she returns alone to the historic island cottage that they had been renovating. Noticing Bryce’s toolbox on the floor,  she picks up his hammer and proceeds to decimate the plaster wall in front of her, screaming out her anguish with every blow of the hammer against the wall.

With this magnificent scene, Barbara Cool Lee begins a 24-page short story to accompany her Pajaro Bay series. And then the author skips the action forward six months.

With a tale this short, the reader cannot expect any significant level of background story or any in-depth character development. A story this short is simply a few snapshots, not the whole photo album. But those snapshots need to be clearly focused. In that regard, the second scene of the story was a staid, formulaic studio pose and the last scene was clearly blurred.

The studio pose has nothing to do with the “widow” scenario per se. It is the premise of the young, childless widow with a large insurance settlement who has no driving necessity to put food on the table, put clothes on anyone’s back, pay a mortgage or move on. Other young widows should be so lucky. So this set-up that allowed her to wallow in her grief and self-pity for 6 months soured my sympathy for her.

The blurred scenario was the last of the story where Kim and Gage Kelly get together and pledge forever to each other. Even though he was Bryce’s best friend, and Bryce has been dead for over six months, Kim has no clue Gage loves her. We do; the author lays the clues nicely. But what she doesn’t lay out is any indication whatsoever that Kim feels any spark in his presence. One minute he is a constant reminder of the loss of her husband and the next he is the man she will live with forever. The story doesn’t need any additional scenes to un-blur the lines; it only needs a few sentences interspersed within previous scenes to make the ending believable.

Cover Art from Goodreads


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