Lillian on Sunday: Stories of the Human Heart

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Lionel Walfish 2021; compiled and edited by Lawrence Lebarge

I was approached by the editor of this book with the offer of an Advance Readers Copy (ARC) in return for my honest review. I agreed because I love the title.

Lillian on Sunday. Isn’t that lovely? It’s also the title of the first of 26 short stories in the book . . . not that I would necessarily call each of these writings a short story. Vignette, perhaps, is a better word for many of the pieces, especially the shorter ones that are just a couple of paragraphs – word sketches.

When reviewing a collection, I consider how and when each piece was written; did the author write with the intent of building a collection with a theme, or were the writings culled from a lifetime of writing? I am assuming the latter, since the collection was compiled and edited by someone other than the author; as such, I need to take each story or vignette on its own merit, independent of the others.

Mr. Walfish is a master of the written word; his prose is pleasantly fluid, and mostly free of hyperbole. Many of the pieces use irony and the unexpected as plot devices, some use humor, and one short story in particular, “Lepidoptera,” is just a beautiful 5-star piece of short fiction.

There are some vignettes in which the meaning, punchline, or theme completely escapes me. I don’t consider this a deficit, and Mr. Walfish is in good company in that respect: I had the same experience with Shirley Jackson’s short story collection Dark Tales.

Many of the individual pieces in this collection would rate 4-5 stars; for those stories, the book is worth checking out. I did, however, perceive some of the most brief sketches as simplistic, and in a couple of the longer stories, I reached the surprise conclusion mentally before I actually got there in the story. Overall, I rate Lillian on Sunday as a very respectable 3 stars.

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