Tender Cuts | Jayne Martin | 92 pages | Vine Leaves Press | Flash Fiction | Nov. 4, 2019
Jayne Martin’s Tender Cuts consists of 38 flash fiction stories. For those of you who are unfamiliar with flash fiction, it is very short — some of the stories (vignettes?) in Tender Cuts are a page long, and some are only a paragraph. I’ve said before that I think the short story is harder to write than the novel and that it takes more skill to get it right. If that’s the case, then flash fiction must really take a lot of skill to be written successfully. Due to it’s very nature, flash fiction is either going to work or it isn’t. There won’t be any in-between. Even though it’s super short, there still has to be a plot and at least some character development. How do you get all of that done in a few paragraphs? In the case of Tender Cuts, it definitely works.
I was a little hesitant when I first started reading Tender Cuts, only because I didn’t really know anything about it. I knew it was flash fiction. That’s it. And it takes some adjustment to go from primarily reading novels to reading flash fiction. It took me a few stories to get into the flash fiction flow. I ended up reading the whole book twice. At only 92 pages, that didn’t take long at all, but I wanted to make sure I had gotten the most out of each tale.
The tales in Tender Cuts are about dealing with the shit life throws at us, whether that’s good shit or bad, and how sometimes our reactions can be totally inappropriate and darkly humorous. Tender Cuts is about human emotion, desires, fears, revenge, and bravery.
“Tender Cuts” is the first vignette, and it’s about a young pageant queen named Julie-Sue who finds herself competing (against her will) in the “Little Miss Soybean Pageant” right next to the 4-H tent where livestock is being auctioned off. We come back to Julie-Sue at different times throughout her life in other tales, and the last story, “Final Cut,” shows how the unhappiness of mothers can be passed down through generations.
Of the other stories in Tender Cuts, some touched me very deeply for various reasons. There is a story that compares the needs of a newborn baby to the way morning glory vines grow and spread, strangling everything in their wake. There are stories about the loss of loved ones, whether to death or infidelity. There is a story about a woman who feels panicked and strangled by her recent wedding. On the flip-side, there is a story about a woman who is finally alone after years of being married and taking care of her kids, and she feels wonderful.
If you’ve never read flash fiction before (or if you have!) and you think it might be something you want to look into, I would recommend Tender Cuts. I haven’t read a lot of flash fiction (and none recently), so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I definitely think it’s worth the read. I was quite impressed with how well the stories in Tender Cuts work with so few words.
Have you read any flash fiction collections? Are there any you would recommend to me?