“Book Review: This Distance”
Reviewed by Yvie Shea Hourihane
Powerful. Evocative. Unforgettable.
This Distance is a thought-provoking short story collection about closing the gap between ourselves and what we’ve tried to leave behind. These literary stories could be hauntingly recognizable to all readers—but especially those who have felt the pain of broken relationships and have encountered the disillusionment that too often follows their hopeful beginnings.
This collection introduces its unifying themes from the very first short story, “A Lesson in Theoretical Physics.” It’s about how we comprehend the world around us and how we “occupy the same space as extra-dimensional somethings…[but] vibrate on a frequency that doesn’t allow us to understand them.” In language that is somehow both omniscient and personal, author Nick Gregorio sets the stage for us to look beyond our physical limitations to the complexities that always surround us.
Each word seems so carefully placed in all of his stories, delivering a full-hearted impact by the end. In one of my favorites, “Sing the Body Electric Blue,” the reader explores a world of depression, placebo, and the often zombifying effect of anti-depressant medications. The magic realist vision of the pain (and shock) in containing a person’s enthusiasm is something that I found truly remarkable.
“I’m better now. Not better-better. But better than I was.”
In another story, “Goings-On & Happenstance,” Gregorio tells an intriguing story of a relationship gone awry, about finding your husband in bed (or on top of the sheets, at least) with another woman. Gregorio thrives on capturing the emotive side of pain in this one, utilizing poignant analogies to relay the character’s reality to the reader, like spending time cleaning dishes after a messy, burnt dinner.
The titular story “This Distance” adds a unique perspective on rewriting history, turning back time, toning down pain, and stopping inevitable events. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of a woman watching a past scene that would impact her (and “Then-her,” too) for the rest of her life. Gregorio’s masterful techniques pierce the reader with futility as we loiter on the edge of the past and the need to intervene.
“But then Time makes sure she can’t change anything.”
The final story, “Wake Up Dead,” amused me at first, considering it’s something I often say, but it turns out to be no amusing tale. The author leaves us on a reflective note as we encounter yet again the fear and truth that we cannot change the past. True to the rest of the collection, it shows us the consequences of life and how to come to terms with our pain and our regret.
Be prepared to approach your own memories as you travel through This Distance, and get yourself ready for some serious soul searching. You may think that you left something behind, but it’s still there, with you, until you’re ready to close the distance. Certain pinpointed moments in time are magnified by the author through a telescopic lens, helping us unearth our truth and prepare us to keep moving.
This collection takes us on a mesmerising journey of love, betrayal, joy, regret, and optimism. For me, the author’s ultimate goal in helping us close the distance between ourselves and the truth has been beautifully met, and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Publisher: Maudlin House
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