They Kept Running (University of North Texas Press, 2022) by Michelle Ross is the 2021 Winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. As I read this gem of a book by one of my favorite writers, I was not surprised this collection of flash fictions was chosen for such a distinguished award. This writer deserves this recognition and more. In these stories are women and young girls struggling with love and loss, moments of menace and outright violence, all the while enduring the pitfalls of relationships between parents and siblings, friends and lovers. Also, I highly enjoy her reimagined fairy tales for our time, rendered in breathtaking prose.
Time and again, I find myself awestruck by this writer’s revelatory stories. It is as if Ross expertly operates her own kind of microscope that magnifies what is deep within ourselves. She peers through the front doors of homes we may not notice at first glance on our evening walks. She takes us into the wide open spaces of a national park, or a tension-filled office building. She lets us overhear conversations that divulge new perspectives, keen observations. These may be characters we know, and places we’ve been, but Ross’s mastery lets us look into her special lens, illustrating all the beauty and ugliness of humanity she has discovered.
As a teacher, I love the lessons seen in many of the stories! I love how different characters impart tidbits of information to others, or directly to the reader. We learn from these sensational moments of instruction that show the true intentions of her characters, at times the simmering discord in their lives ready to erupt into a frantic boil. A few examples out of the many amazing stories in this collection are “A Treatise on the Broken Heart Idiom,” “Fish Story,” “Lessons,” “Why Science Lessons That Involve Potatoes Give Me Grief,” “Glow,” “I’m Just Talking About Water,” “Frogs in Captivity,” and “Manhandle.”
As a student of craft, I marvel at Ross’s precision on the pages of her award-winning collection. They Kept Running is a singular work of literary fiction and a must-read!
To find out more about the book: https://untpress.unt.edu/catalog/ross-they-kept-running/
Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019) and the short story collection The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021). His writing appears in a number of journals and anthologies, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize.