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Review: Shoulder Bones by Mary B. Sellers


These stories are worth an all-nighter and a steaming cup of tea. Shoulder Bones is a collection of short stories that dive into and out of the conscious and unconscious, into and out of reality. A girl jumps on a trampoline and gets stuck in midair.

Debut author Sellers has a voice that is a touch of Faulkner and a dash Austen, deeply rooted in the sounds, spirit, and heart, of a southern childhood. This is a collection of stories that have the fantastical dimension of the original Peter Pan or Harry Potter, but the adult thematic depth of Augusten Burroughs.

Sellers writes with the freshness of youth, but out of the fear of childhood. She spills her inky blood onto the pages of this debut collection with a not-quite-sweet prose that is at once feminist and normal, vivid and average, wild-eyed and honeysuckle sweet. This collection of stories represents the best and the worst in each of us, and the fanciful, fantastic escape that the squeeze of reality can bring.


Shoulder Bones is a collection of short stories about girls and women and some of things they encounter growing up. Each story has a heroine and the villains aren’t always people but the adversity or obstacles the leading lady is faced; such as child birth, adolescence, death, love of another and love of self. Shoulder Bones focuses on the things girls and women often go through but told in nontraditional ways. 

Each story is told as if they were individual novels. Except each story’s protagonist is a woman dealing with a dilemma all women, or girls, face. The stories are not related to one another but the flow of themes are good; going from a young woman to older to young and young adult, with themes ranging from adolescent worth to death. Thus I think the book as a whole is written well. 

We start out with adolescence, going from preteen to teenager at thirteen but not really changing; still being seen as a child, though you are growing into a woman. There is nothing extraordinary about this girl, except for the fact that she is stuck in the sky and can’t come down. Yet on some level, she doesn’t want to come down. So as long as she stays stuck in the sky, she can finally be extraordinary, but at what cost? No friends, or family to hang out with and certainly no life to live. Thus how extraordinary is she really? 

And we end with a father dying, so his daughter takes hot air balloon lessons, so that they can fly around the world together before his inevitable end. Loretta has dropped out, or rather been asked to leave college and is just wondering through life as her father comes to the end of his. The doctors suggest he be comfortable, since there is nothing they can do for him and now Loretta is learning how to fly a hot air balloon. Loretta has nothing better to do and he mother hates flying. While hitting on her, the balloon instructor, Timothy imparts some wisdom upon her; that “every second we’re running from it with all our might, as fast as our legs can carry us. Balloons are the ultimate distraction from the inevitable.” Thus the way Loretta sees it, she should just soak up as much of life with her dad before death not only comes for her father, but for her as well. It’s not like she has anything better to do. 

Of course there are other stories within this novel but if I were to describe them all, I would give the whole book away. Overall, Shoulder Bones is about girls and woman and the struggles they go through in life. These struggles deal with everything from being just a teenager to being a daughter or a mother and the ultimate dilemma of death.  Most importantly, Shoulder Bones is just a collection of stories told in unconventional ways. 

Reviewed by Camia Rhodes

Paperback: 133 pages
Publisher: Blooming Twig Books (December 1, 2014)

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