Set in locations up and down the East Coast, these eight evocative stories explore the quiet ripples beneath the surface of everyday life. Although the characters rarely raise their voices, they are animated by the deep emotional undercurrents of desire, disillusion, and loss. In “The History of Florida,” an idealistic young woman is consumed by her boyfriend’s construction of Florida, the state in which he grew up, and to which he wishes to return. In “The New Millennium,” a woman is enticed by her lover’s desire for modernity, but discovers that she, like her older brother, is tied to tradition. And in “Rome,” a forty-five year old man expects his teenaged daughter to be bound to his tragic legacy. With understated lyricism, the stories in The Stillness of the Picture touch on the ever-present past that haunts all of our lives.
Praise for The Stillness of the Picture
The stories in The Stillness of the Picture possess the quiet power of strong feelings that go unspoken, of loves that are replaced or fade away, of injuries that scar the heart. A wife grieving for her lost husband, angry and alone; a father unwilling to let his daughter go, but unable to stop her leaving him; a mother and daughter facing a storm together without the husband and father they perhaps never really knew—all of Gretchen Comba’s characters feel as real and as close to us as our own loved ones, and their stories are like our own memories. This collection is a confident and resonant debut, sure to win many fans.— Keith Lee Morris
To borrow from the title and central metaphor of one of its stories, this collection manages to find “the friction point” in situations at once diverse and universal. In unsettling juxtapositions of grittiness and gracefulness, Gretchen Comba measures the inevitable shortfalls of our wants and needs. Her vision is wry, penetrating and deeply generous.—Michael Parker
Gretchen Comba’s stories are breathtakingly complex and yet as natural as breath itself, depicting characters whom inexorable pressures purify into their truest selves. This book is an often melancholy but never self- pitying masterwork that proves how fragile life and happiness are—and how necessary it is to keep pursuing an elusive good that, once found, illuminates everything within reach.—Susann Cokal
Excerpt from The Stillness of the Picture
We were just boys then. Boys in wool caps and mud-caked dungarees who didn’t know nothing about girls, about how they had feelings on their looks sown inside them, feelings rising up like wheat grass though they didn’t know it yet. So we teased Josie some. Teased her asking what’s for supper each time she put a braid end in her mouth. She was a right smart girl, though. Just looked us through and through like we were ghosts she wasn’t afraid of.
She wasn’t but fifteen when she wed Ernesto Daglio. Ernesto he was a handsome one, seventeen and strapping from the coal he hauled, arms so big from auger work it took three hands to wrap around the muscle solid. He had been in the mines since he was eight. Something about his eye kept him from the school. Had a pupil like a keyhole, born that way, and it let in too much light. So he went down the mines early, and when the Freeport Press come out to snap a picture he was the one front row, center, leaning just a little forward like a turf horse pounding out of dust, even in the stillness of the picture.