Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Recently published is Rochester’s own, Rachel Hall, with her collection of stories, Heirlooms. Hall is an English professor at SUNY Geneseo and is the 2016 winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. She has been published in multiple literary journals including The Gettysburg Review, Fifth Wednesday and New Letters. In an interview with Kathryn Waring from The Rumpus, Hall has referred to herself as a “late bloomer” (in regards to publication). Heirlooms is her first novel.
Although the stories are fiction, the events and characters in Heirlooms are based off of the author’s own family history. The stories walk one through over 50 years of the effect the Holocaust had on one Jewish family from France. The main characters are fictionalized versions of Hall’s mother and adopted grandparents who the reader will easily sympathize with. The reader cannot help but to grow closer to the characters with every story they read mostly because of the author’s exceptional writing skills throughout Heirlooms. The reader can effortlessly individualize all the characters due to how well Hall provided them all with their own unique personalities and voices. A talent that the author showcased throughout the novel is her ability to clearly describe an entire setting with just a few words. One example of this is on page 46: “Inside, she breathes in the familiar smells of cooking and mothballs, her mother’s rose perfume, the faintest trace of the tobacco that was her father’s end.”
Heirlooms definitely invokes feelings of sadness, anger and grief but the reader can also feel the characters’ sense of hope and joy. Every story will impact the reader and leave one thinking about it long after they have finished reading. Goosebumps became a standard for me as I read through Hall’s stories. I am sure they will have the same effect on other readers as well.
More information about Rachel Hall can be found at: http://www.rachelhall.org