Body Language

Short Stories

Fiction - Literary
222 Pages
Reviewed on 02/25/2020
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

The short stories in BODY LANGUAGE drew inspiration from Walt Whitman's poem, "The Body Electric." Whitman understands that we live in our bodies and that there is beauty and even glory in the way we conduct our daily lives. That's why my stories are about the young and old, men and women, rich and poor, with each soul sheltered by the body's cocoon. Just as Whitman does in his poem, I hope to pull back the curtain and reveal twelve portraits of heartbreak and desire.

The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the transparent green-shine,
or lies with his face up and rolls silently to and fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born,
out on the vacant lot at sun-down after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance...

WALT WHITMAN

I write literary fiction and have won numbers awards for my short stories, including the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, the Jeanne M. Leiby Chapbook Award, and the ALR Fiction Prize.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite

Body Language: Short Stories by Marylee MacDonald is a collection of satisfying short stories, each leaving the reader feeling as though they have just consumed a well-baked cookie. The stories are gorgeous and depict a wide range of characters as they follow their natural instincts. These are stories to be read with the heart and not the mind. The collection starts with the story of John and Sally. John has fancied Sally since they were young, but circumstances never allowed him to marry her. Both grew up and married. Then suddenly, Sally shows up at John’s place and makes an unusual request. The characters and the stories in this collection include a bartender struggling to keep sober, a composer dealing with loss, and many others.

The beauty in these stories is in the language, the humorous descriptions, and the realism that runs through each of them. They are short and loaded with those elements that entice the reader. The narrative voice is strong, absorbing, and the author’s handling of points of view is just superb. The humor fills every page, and most often, it is as situational as it is verbal. Like the terrific descriptions such as John capturing the sensation he had when he first saw Sally: “Seeing her all-American good looks, my knees began to cave.” It is a feeling that is so akin to our experience of love at first sight that every reader can relate to it. Marylee MacDonald is one of those authors who have mastered the art of the short story and who understand the elements that create excitement when readers pick up such stories. There is a world to explore in those stories, humanity to touch in each of them, and an emotional ride that fills the reader with a rare sense of familiar experience.

K.C. Finn

Body Language is a collection of literary short stories penned by author Marylee MacDonald. Focused around the central theme of what it is that drives the human spirit to search for happiness in all the wrong places, MacDonald presents a collection of twelve deep stories which consider a wide variety of emotions and pursuits. From long lost loves to grief, heartbreak, temptation and a search for the truth, each of these well-penned tales touches on the human connection, and why it means so much to all of us. The collection also features an addendum with a message from the author and a handy section of questions for book clubs reading the tales.

Author Marylee MacDonald fits into the literary tradition at a high-quality level with these emotive, character-led tales that take a slow pace and pose poignant questions throughout the volume. One of my particular favorites was Tito’s Descent, in which a group of university students is persuaded to enter a pothole-style cave by two young boys, and we learn a lot about the indelible impression that the experiences of our youth have on us as adults later in life. The prose throughout the collection is beautifully smooth and well phrased, leaving room enough for soft metaphors that give different levels to the emotions at play for the characters in the text. Overall, Body Language is a fully rounded collection with a common atmosphere, offering distinctive and interesting stories that can be digested in a single sitting, but will stick in your memory for a long time after.

Christian Sia

Body Language: Short Stories by Marylee MacDonald is a delightful collection of short stories that explore what is essentially human in us, featuring characters that readers will enjoy. It starts with the story of John, a devoted rancher, husband and father. His life is getting settled when Sally, his childhood sweetheart, comes knocking. He accepts an unusual request and is pulled into her life. Can he follow his heart's desire to the end and grant her the only thing she’s always wanted? And what about Margie, his wife? Like the opening story, the rest of the stories are filled with characters that are real and richly developed, with plot twists and surprises that readers won’t see coming. From the bar to the nude beach and other exciting places, the stories follow compelling characters that reflect something intimate in our humanity — a quest for love, the hunger for real freedom, and irresistible desire.

The writing is suspenseful and Marylee MacDonald knows what it takes to grip readers. The characters have depth. For instance, Sally is one of my best characters and she reignites an old flame in John. She is deeply flawed and has a strong motivation for what she wants — she has had five miscarriages and now she badly wants to have a baby, but her husband won’t touch her. Can she get a child from the man she deeply loves? It is easy to feel for the characters. The desperation is strong, the traits of their humanity so palpably enunciated in the writing. Conflict handling is superb and the reader can feel their heart pounding as they follow the characters, but the ending is hardly what they wish for. The writing is excellent and the author has a strong economy of word. The tight writing combines with exciting dialogues to make a great offering for fans of short stories.

Rabia Tanveer

Body Language: Short Stories by Marylee MacDonald is a collection of 12 short stories that will make you fall in love, think about your past and realize how beautiful life can be, even when it tests you more than you can imagine. The author has written some very beautiful and poignant stories that show a different side to humans and how they react in situations that are meant to test us in the most difficult manner. Starting from “A Body of Water” where a lonely old flame comes back into the life of a rancher to the last story called “Year by Year” of an aging woman who is trying to hold on to her past, her memories and her independence, this book has some amazing gems that you will love to discover. Human beings are beautiful in all of their flaws; they are always ready to start a fight, always ready to get back on their feet even when they fall down again and again. This collection is about all that and so much more.

The stories are so unique because they are focused on individuals who are just as unique. These characters are universal, they are people you meet every day and experience what they are going through at least once in your life. You will resonate with them, you will enjoy their reactions and you will wish them a better future. My favorite was Klara Schmidt because she is a fighter, she knew that a big change was coming in her life and she was afraid of it, but that wasn’t going to stop her from fighting until her last breath. I loved how every story had its own personality, how every story wanted you to explore a little deeper. These short stories are the perfect slice of life out of these characters’ lives and you will live these moments with them. It is perfect in every way, enjoyable and so much more than I can describe!

Erin Nicole Cochran

Some characters come into our lives and are forgotten after the turn of the last page. The characters in Marylee MacDonald’s short story collection, Body Language, aren’t just coming over for dinner. Her characters become instant grandmothers, sisters, troubled cousins, and departed loved ones. Each story drives the nails of connection and bonds down deeper. The writing style itself is smart but relaxed enough that it unfolds easily in your mind. Too many favorite lines to be counted, this one on page 198 is in the top five: “They are parts of her, as necessary as limbs. As skin.”

Marylee MacDonald’s short story collection Body Language was a true gift and pleasure to read. The stories within are so vastly different on some levels and on others they reflect the same kind of message. We are human, we all feel love, fear, sadness, bitterness and no one can escape these, no matter how hard we try not to step into that bear trap of pathos. It is my fervent belief that anyone who reads this book may possibly be healed of some sort of trauma. I know that it helped me deal with some of my own familial problems. Any book that can release even a molecule of emotion that sadly has nowhere to go but within is a book that needs to be read and passed on by word of mouth. If you read this book, and I hope that you do, please share it with others.

Jamie Michele

Body Language by Marylee MacDonald is a series of twelve stand-alone short stories that allow glimpses into the lives of MacDonald's diverse cast of characters. The stories range vastly in both tone and tenor from one to the next, shifting from an experience flying in first-class where an $8,000 ticket might not even get you a decent meal in "Hunger," to a discovery by a tenacious group led by a young climber who could only enjoy the find for a short period of time in "Tito's Descent." Even though they are each different, the stories do come together through the weaving of a common thread: the frailty of humanity and the human experiences that tie us all together.

Marylee MacDonald clearly has a keen understanding of how the seemingly mundane and exceedingly distressing contact we have with one another on a personal level can be equally profound. Body Language might be literary fiction, but MacDonald's layering forces a reader to analyze the psychological impact of the interactions in an alternative way. The stories are all entertaining and my favorite was "The Memory Place," where a bartender listens to a patron talk comfortably about his issues while in the back of the bartender's mind there's a darker struggle of his own. The writing is clean and really well done, and it's always nice when bite-sized stories pack a bigger punch than a reader expects. This is a great anthology and I'd recommend it to those who are looking for a bit of armchair escapism and glimpses into the lives of others.

Ankita Shukla

Body Language: Short Stories by Marylee MacDonald is a collection of twelve fascinating tales. Marylee MacDonald's short stories force you to reflect on your life choices, actions, and mindset. Each character in Body Language has a way of striking just the right chord with its readers. Of course, these short stories, like all good ones, leave the reader curious about the future of the characters. Nevertheless, Marylee MacDonald has done a marvelous job of narrating a particular aspect of their lives. The unrequited love of John, Tito's adventurous spirit, Neva Roth's musical loss after the demise of her husband, and Sister Salina Limone's difficult attitude are just a few shades of Body Language's kaleidoscope.

Body Language: Short Stories by Marylee MacDonald is the perfect companion to pause and reflect. In our real-world hustle and bustle, we make numerous practical decisions on behalf of our families. Nonetheless, we do not realize the impact of such decisions from their viewpoint. Likewise, we tend to have an opinion of an entire community based on a couple of bad experiences. The various stories in the book will persuade the reader to consider the effect of such a thought process. Life is not black and white; it is a combination of many shades. Body Language by Marylee McDonald unveils those grey moments in a commendable manner.

Lesley Jones

Body Language by Marylee MacDonald enters the lives of twelve characters, each facing difficult choices that could change the direction of their lives. A man who has 'fallen into a hole of marriage' meets his childhood crush and finds his feelings for her are still as strong. A daughter discovers appearances can be deceptive when she is forced to visit her estranged, dying father. An adopted daughter feels obligated to take a pilgrimage, for her mother, to discover the cause of her brother's death. When she meets his friends, she realizes her opinion of him could not have been more mistaken. An elderly lady travels to Germany and has to face the truth that her body has aged faster than her mind. Each will discover a brutal truth about themselves that they could never have predicted.

In Body Language by Marylee MacDonald, each of the stories has a unique and thought-provoking theme but is linked with the common bond of the characters having reached a turning point in their lives. The characters have qualities that draw you into their world immediately; you feel their every emotion and the difficult choices they have to make. This is a testament to the brilliant writing of the author. She has a complete grasp on human behavior, thoughts and feelings and how they interact with differing personalities. I loved how the author left the endings open so the reader can decide what path the character would follow and how this would affect them. You are left examining your own life and the decisions you have made that have led you to your present circumstances. The messages throughout this book are powerful and could inspire you to chase your dreams. It will also make you more compassionate towards others.

Karen Hesson

Body Language by Marylee MacDonald is a book of twelve engaging short stories. They explore various themes such as love, loss, and forgiveness and are told from many different perspectives. A woman grapples with the illness of an estranged father, another with the loss of a man she could have loved. One woman searches for answers about the mysteries surrounding her adopted brother. A rancher struggles with temptation from a past love, and one man finds himself judging people too quickly. The situations described in these stories are as varied as the ones we experience in our own lives.

I often like to read short stories because they are a great way to enjoy fiction without having to commit to a longer novel and invest a lot of time. Marylee MacDonald has a talent for creating flawed and real characters in only a few pages. She gives you a glimpse into their lives that leaves you thinking about them and wondering what happens next. I also felt like Macdonald painted a beautiful picture of the complexity of human emotions and relationships. Each story in Body Language was well written, but there were a few that resonated with me more than others. “Long Time, No See” illustrated how even in our imperfections, we can still make a difference in the lives of others. “Tito’s Descent” spoke to the way that our loved ones never really leave us, and “Body Language” showed that sometimes the answers to our questions are not what we expect to find.

Lit Amri

“Our bodies speak to us every day. Let us listen.” Aging, familial relationships, interpersonal relations, and other themes are at the heart of Marylee MacDonald's Body Language, a collection of 12 short stories about all kinds of human drama, following different people as they navigate through certain periods of their lives. A Body of Water is the first story, where a married man reconnects with his long-lost love during a fishing trip, putting aside the fact that they both belong to other people and have separate lives. It's an ironic situation of fidelity; he's more loyal to his years of true feelings for another woman than his lawfully wedded wife. In Mongoose, an estranged daughter visits her ailing father as a reflective story of a fearless mongoose helps the daughter to learn something about him and herself.

Each story is excellently character-driven, focusing on human nature and choices that people make. Some simple conversations bubble with a seriousness that projects the characters’ emotions beyond what they convey with their demeanor. I found The Memory Palace as one of the perfect examples, where a subtle discussion about drinks, life, change, and self-control takes place between a young bartender and an older customer. In Body Language, a woman traces back the life of her adopted brother before his death to get the closure that her family needed. It leads to a discovery about a sibling whom she thought she knew, leaving her with surprising insight about one's interpretation of contentment. Simply put, Marylee MacDonald's Body Language is a contemplative and fascinatingly psychological collection whose stories move across circumstances and deftly portray human connection. A great read.