Review: Radio Water
By Nadia Bruce-Rawlings
Radio Water, published by Roadside Press, is a beautiful collection of flash fiction from author Francine Witte. Witte writes with such poetry and grace. Every word is thought out, every action flows. The theme is mostly the dysfunctional family, women and children who have been let down, which of course has been overtold, but not in this case. Witte makes it all new again with her sparsity of words and her gorgeous imagery.
Spoiler alert: what follows is perhaps my favorite of her “stories,” the final one of the collection, entitled simply “Sister:”
“She’d follow me, puppy that she was, the two of us new in the bicycle wind. The mist of adolescence just ahead but not just yet. She’d grab the flounce of my jacket, she on her roller skates, me on my bike. She’d squeal me to go faster, go faster. I wanted to slow down to an ooze. Never wanted to get to the part where her daughter calls one night to say she’s gone. How even now, I can’t help but look behind sometimes to see if she’s still there.”
Beautiful. The whole collection leaves one breathless. I honestly want to read it again - I had previously read the title story, “Radio Water” somewhere, and this time I loved it even more. It brought back memories of summers at the lake in British Columbia with a drunk father and codependent mother.
Another favorite (I hate to spoil the collection for everyone, but damn this is good). “Milk”:
“My mother and the milkman, because she is very old, and they used to leave milk in glass bottles in metal boxes and somehow it never went bad. Tuesdays, my mother would lean in the doorway, all sashay and catpurr while my father rattled to work on the 8:15. And my mother and the milkman, later rattling in my brother’s room, and my brother in the Vietnam sun, his shaky grenade hand at the top of his arm. How later, months or even a year went by, before we got the telegram. Mother shaking in the loop of Daddy’s arms. Milk sold now in cartons. In the supermarket. Where anyone could watch.”
Concise and gorgeous, Ms. Witte’s writing makes me want to write more frequently and better. Get this collection, you won’t regret it.