Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth by Mandy Haynes.

In Mandy Haynes’s collection of Southern tinged short stories, Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth, characters are as different as Jayhawks and Starlings, they grin like possums, and, if in need while in someone’s bad graces, are told they can go get what they want “their own dang self.” Throughout the assembly of Haynes’s five, compelling stories, her character-intensive narrative is urgent and breathless, so regionally pitch-perfect as to feel indiscreet:

“Now don’t roll your eyes at me,” the narrator of short story, Junebug Fischer says. “You know dang good and well Rita’s daughter did not get pregnant on her honeymoon. And you know same as me that she shouldn’t have married that no count Tucker, pregnant or not.”

Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth is laser-sharp, finely wrought fiction in each stand alone story. In “Eva,” the abused daughter of a con-artist preacher is depicted with such Southern Gothic surrealism as to make her seem other-worldly. In “Plans for Sweet Lorraine,” a fearlessly headstrong mother is led by gut-intuition to rescue her innocent daughter from the clutches of a smooth-talking charlatan posing as a man of God.

In each story, the narrator’s voice is chock full of gumption– the sure-footed kind grown and fostered in the hollows of the rural South. They are all unique, memorable narrators. In “The Day I threw the Rock,” the young, red-haired narrator prefers to go barefoot in overalls, in whose pocket she keeps a garden snake as she unfurls the high-drama of events that lead to her throwing the eponymous rock. In “Cussing Snakes and Candy Cigarettes,” a young girl defies common, local opinion of her dead mother’s twin sister, in an eye-opening summer that impacts her coming of age.

Author Mandy Haynes approaches her craft with an uncanny grasp on pace in perfect measure. Her authentic voice is beyond comparison. Her high-stakes stories are layered with utter unpredictability. I cannot recommend this Southern to the core collection of short stories emphatically enough. Each of the five stories in Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth is the perfect combination of riveting story and character as place.

Mandy Haynes has spent hours on barstools, at backstage venues, and riding in vans listening to some of the best songwriters and storytellers in Nashville, Tennessee. She now lives in Fernandina Beach, Florida with her three dogs, one turtle, and a grateful liver. Her first collection, Walking the Wrong Way Home was a finalist for the Tartt Fiction Award, and selected as a bonus pick for The Pulpwood Queens’ 2020 Reading List.

About me – Mandy Haynes, author of literary fiction with a southern drawl

Mandy Haynes’s Blog http://www.the runawaywriter.com

Gather at the River: 25 Authors on Fishing ( Edited by David Joy with Erick Rickstad)

At the heart of every well-beloved novel is that one riveting scene that verges on transcendence and stays in the reader’s memory as the very soul of the book. Gather at the River is a collection of those resonant moments, one right after another, and there’s not a weak story in the assembly. I use the word story, instead of essay, on purpose. These are first person accounts rife with insider’s knowledge in the hands of those that know nuance and how to describe it down to the last rock in the river. These writers know what from the woods as they recount their individual fishing stories and gift the reader with their own version of universal nostalgia. They work the depths of the seemingly simple themes of family connections, childhood innocence, and pivotal moments all within a bucolic setting that expands the visceral margins of character as place. You can see, hear, and feel the mood of every setting, and though fishing is the common premise, the central experience in each is so much more. There’s such art in the craft of a briefly told story. The sure sign of success is when the reader, in this case, yours truly, is so moved by the reading experience that they wish for more.