Honeydew is American author Edith Pearlman’s newest collection of short stories. The book is comprised of twenty tales in all, and ends with the title story.
As with the work of undisputed greats such as Alice Munro in the field, Pearlman presents slices of everyday life in Honeydew – a trip to the pedicurist for a muddled divorcee in ‘Tenderfoot’, a fairytale-esque hospital where all is not what it seems in ‘Castle 4’, and the purchasing of an antique statue in ‘Puck’. She largely focuses upon family, friendships and first meetings, but from time to time, the darker elements of human nature seep in – from drug taking and dying, to drawing disfigured children in order to ‘ward off catastrophe’ within the artist’s own family.
Whilst some of the general ideas here are interesting, Pearlman’s third person perspective seems rather too detached at times. Whilst she follows each of her characters well, she does not build any real sympathy for them on behalf of the reader. The majority of her protagonists do not tend to feel like three-dimensional constructs in consequence, and very few of them are memorable creations.
Unlike the diversity which can be found within Pearlman’s 2011 collection Binocular Vision, which was nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction, the stories within Honeydew are, on the whole, rather similar in their tone and style. There is not enough to set the tales apart from one another; they are largely geograpically vague, and undefined in terms of their time period. Several of the stories are not at all engaging, and felt quite flat.
Particularly for someone who so enjoyed Binocular Vision, Honeydew is rather disappointing. Pearlman’s writing is more matter-of-fact than anything, and there are very few passages which could be termed beautiful. There is an uneven feel to Honeydew; there is no real sense of flow or coherence from one story to the next. The tales here give the impression that they were penned by an entirely different author to the sharp and perceptive stories which can be found within Binocular Vision.