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Where The Dog Star Never Glows    by Tara L Masih order for
Where The Dog Star Never Glows
by Tara L Masih
Order:  USA  Can
Press 53, 2010 (2010)
* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

Tara L. Masih's debut collection of short stories is as varied as the characters she writes - encompassing a wide range of locations and styles, Masih showcases the breadth of her talent in this slim but powerful volume. While none of her stories are connected, they share thematic elements that link each character together, and create a palpable mood of longing and desire. The intersection between love and loss, the search for self, and the desire to be truly accepted form the base of each story, and Masih allows each character to wrestle with these common struggles in ways both familiar and unique.

In Champagne Water, Jill and Louis are a married couple whose relationship has lost its spark. When they travel to Dominca together, Jill's flirtation with infidelity brings Louis to the breaking point. Masih perfectly captures the emotions of a woman searching for more from a relationship, but scared to take the risk of losing what she has:

'They lie as if they existed in the days when bundling was the custom, only there is no real wooden board between them in the bed, meant to inhibit sexuality, but a space just as hard and thick and impenetrable ... She wants to cry; she doesn't want to cry. She wants to scream; she wants to disappear into the secure oblivion of sleep.'

Where the Dog Star Never Glows tells the story of Cap, a miner who has narrowly escaped a cave-in. As he struggles, severely injured, to return home to his beloved Alma, he reflects on the life of a mining town, and the sacrifices made by the men and women who choose to walk this dangerous path. Asylum introduces readers to Bliss, who lives each day in the shadow of a mother suffering from schizophrenia. Bird Man is one woman's journey to the field in the Netherlands where her father was shot down in World War II. Suspended is an extremely short story of a woman trapped in a car after a horrifying accident.

While some stories in the collection will certainly be more memorable, it is hard to identify a weak link. Masih's ability to fully inhabit each character, and her strong sense of place and time, make each story a standout in its own way. Masih's especially vivid descriptions of landscape and setting allow the reader to become completely immersed in each of her tales, no matter how brief. This is an excellent collection that should appeal to many readers.

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