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From Here to There

Todd Ziebarth reviews The View From There by Nan Leslie

The View From There, by Nan Leslie (book cover).In The View From There published by Skrev Press, a new British publisher of shorter fictions, Nan Leslie has written a collection of stories that mix crisp writing and serious subject matter. The pieces of fiction she has created are less short stories and more vignettes of a particular moment in time in a character’s life—thus intensifying the immediacy of the situations.

One of the book’s strengths is Leslie’s ability to clearly and quickly paint through the written word a world that intrigues the reader. While the writing is clear, the action in the story, and the motives behind it, are sometimes less clear—which is another one of the strengths of the book. Leslie doesn’t provide you with the story’s details in a linear way, but prefers to share key aspects of a character throughout the story in more of a non-linear way. Her approach creates room for the reader to play with differing interpretations of some of her stories.

For the most part, the subject matter in the stories is fairly weighty. In this regard, Leslie shows an impressive range in the characters she creates. There is Marilina, the increasingly panicked mother who is falling further and further away from her teenage daughter. There is Pearl, the young black girl pushing the boundaries of her South Georgia world in large and small ways. And there is Howell, the machine shop worker who retires and isolates himself in his house to paint. These aren’t trivial matters. To her credit, Leslie treats them seriously, without sentimentalizing the characters or their experiences.

To me, The View From There is, on the whole, about movement. The characters in many of the stories are faced with serious situations and must make tough choices with uncertain consequences. In their actions, they move from one place to the next—from here to there. While not always pleasant, the view from there often reveals life in a more honest and humbling way. For that, the choice is worth it.

Read "Ring" and "Roman Temples," stories in The View From There originally appearing in Terrain.org.


Todd Ziebarth is a policy analyst at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. He is also a founding editor of Terrain.org. In addition to his regular Terrain.org column, Ziebarth sometimes reviews books and CDs for the journal. He has a master's degree in public administration and a master's degree in urban and regional planning.
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The View From There

by Nan Leslie

   Skrev Press
   ISBN 1904646093



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