$12.59; 196 pages; September 2012
By Mercedes M. Yardley
Shock Totem Publications
“The other girl, she has eyes like oil. They’re dark and black and slick. They widen like holes and one day they’ll swallow me completely. I tell her this. She smiles, just a little.”- “Black Mary,” Mercedes M. Yardley
Beautiful Sorrows is a collection of short fiction with prose that is both delicate and blunt, soft and full of burn. Mercedes M. Yardley holds nothing back with her stories and therefore shows her readers the gentlest of pains, the softest of loves, and the most horrific of nightmares. Her collection is a mix of genres—soft horror, fantasy, thriller—and even then, that’s not placing the collection properly because her writing transcends words on a page or stories told from memory. She’s a master at eliciting emotions and the title of the collection, Beautiful Sorrows, appropriately encompasses the thoughts and feelings that read between the lines. There are stories that will make you cry—some that will make you sob—and then there are others that will touch your heart with darkness, that will make you cringe and look away. But then turn the page and there’s an outpouring of love, of passion, of kindness. Yardley shows the beauty in the pain, and the pain in the beauty. Her stories not only show what it means to heal, but explain how the process is different for each and every one of us. Her characters run from their pasts, their presents, and sometimes their futures, but what they find along the way, what they experience in the process of confronting their demons—both real and imaginary—is frightfully enlightening in the darkest and lightest of ways.
Her story, “The Boy Who Hangs the Stars” takes readers into the woods and walks with them as they look at the sky. It’s a story about invisibility, about being broken, about learning how to thaw the ice in our hearts. There are wings and shooting stars and the girl and the boy teach each other—slowly—what it means to live life out in the open and how two people can change the way people look at them when they’re in each other’s arms.
“The Container of Sorrows” is a piece that explains how one person’s pain can be another’s happiness, and how sometimes sacrificing our own self for someone else’s benefit is the greatest gift that we can give. That sorrow, that energy that we dig down deep to pull ourselves out of, is also found in her piece, “She Called Him Sky,” which is a story that not only tugs on the heartstrings, but just pulls them out. It’s a piece about repair, about healing. It shows how people bleed willingly for others without them even noticing it. Just like the title, the story is a beautiful sorrow.
Yardley’s work is a melodic tune whispered in the ears of readers but sung in an e-minor chord and performed by someone with fangs. It’s romantic and dangerous, soft yet covered in caution tape. Beautiful Sorrows is a collection that won’t leave your mind, your heart, or your nightmares.
Think of it as a white rose given to you by a lover.
Then picture it spattered with blood.
–Stephanie M. Wytovich