My Mother and the Hungarians: And Other Small Fictions
A small child permanently loses all sense of direction after she falls out of a tree. Hungarian refugees learn the local idiom: she'll be right; right as rain. The Social Welfare snoops around a boarding house where immigrant men weep for their homelands and a young child misses her father who is only across town. Years later, an adult woman becomes obsessed with Vladimir Putin; another tries over and over to understand the relationship between her mother and the band of refugees who were under her wryly affectionate, and sometimes distracted eye in the 1950s. My mother kept boarders like other people kept chooks or stray dogs. She liked the refugees best with their suitcases, their canvas shoes tied up with string, their boyish faces and willingness to share a bed so that if one woke in the night crying, 'no shoot, no shoot,' the other could turn and blanket their sorrows with their old European ways. My mother said our house was a little window into the twentieth century and that the cold war would soon be over. In this new collection of flash fiction from Frankie McMillan, family relationships are explored through exaggeration, humour, and surreal eddies of simile and metaphor that broaden the pieces out to look askance at politics, culture and history. Although there are genuinely laugh aloud moments, usually the humour is'clandestine': looking at human vulnerability and oddity,spotlighting miscommunication, yet doing so with fondness and empathy: a delight in all the rough edges between us that proximity can heighten - and yet which intimacy tries to soothe away. Frankie McMillan's small fictions capture disjunctions between child and adult, between cultures, personality types, man and woman. These compressed, often comic capsules of narrative convey a rich sense of family connection and also a child's evolving self-awareness in a fractured, yet still enchanting, world.