I don’t read much flash fiction so when Jayne Martin asked if I’d like to read Tender Cuts I thought it was time to rectify that omission. My enormous thanks to Jayne for sending me a copy of Tender Cuts in return for an honest review.
Tender Cuts was published by Vine Leaves Press on 19th November 2019 and is available for purchase though the links here.
If Joy Williams and Raymond Carver had a love child that was often left in the care of Lydia Davis it might grow up to be Jayne Martin. Martin’s writing evokes the literary DNA of those who have influenced her most, while in a style and voice that is uniquely her own.
In these 38 tiny tales, everyday people do their best to manage the wounds life inflicts on all of us: A six-year-old beauty pageant contestant strives to please her demanding mother; a woman marries a 1985 Buick LeSabre; in a laundromat bored wives fall under the romantic spell of a lobster; a grown woman is still being fat-shamed by her deceased mother via a Ouija board; a widow carries her husband’s ashes around in Baggies.
With pathos and humor, these and all of the characters in this collection will speak to the reader’s own wounded heart.
My Review of Tender Cuts
Thirty-eight pieces with accompanying illustrations.
Tender Cuts has completely surprised me. I’m unused to reading flash fiction and hadn’t expected the depth of quality Jayne Martin provides. Each of these mini stories is a complete gem and equally as engaging as any full length narrative because each is carefully crafted. At a time when many are struggling to focus on reading at length, this collection is perfect. Reading Tender Cuts was akin to finding a long forgotten memory box and delving in to discover all manner of delights. I loved the fact that on the facing page for each of these stories is a related line drawing each featuring at least one tiny heart. These illustrations somehow added to the poignancy of the texts.
Although I read the collection in the order it is presented and Julie-Sue’s pieces are perhaps best read that way, I think Tender Cuts would be perfect for randomly dipping into because there’s such quality in each piece that provides much to ponder and reflect upon.
I found Jayne Martin’s writing superb, and the the variety of sentence structure in particular extremely impactful, because emotion is conveyed so effectively. In The New Kid, for example, the final sentence gives so many different interpretations depending on the intonation, so that the story, like so many in Tender Cuts, lives on beyond the confines of the page. What, for example, happens to Carmen in The Understudy after she unties the ribbons on her second ballet shoe? I loved too, the imagery in pieces like Eventide because I found a rich visual quality that placed me within the narratives too.
All life – and death – is present in this slim volume making it a beautifully written microcosm of society. Themes of birth, love, violence, passion, hatred, depression, entrapment, control, guilt and so many others, leap from the page so that I felt very moved by the stories. The Contract, for example, is only fifty-three words long (yes I counted because I was so surprised by its impact) and yet Jayne Martin managed to bring a tear to my eye.
Jayne Martin’s Tender Cuts is not a book I would ordinarily have chosen but I’m delighted to have read it. I thought it was as tender a portrayal of society as the title suggests, beautifully written and thought provoking. I really recommend it.
About Jayne Martin
Jayne Martin is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her debut collection of flash fiction, Tender Cuts, from Vine Leaves Press is available now. She lives in California where she rides horses and drinks copious amounts of fine wines, though not at the same time.
Prior to turning her attention to essay and fiction, Jayne Martin was a TV-movie writer whose credits include “Big Spender” for Animal Planet, and “A Child Too Many,” “Cradle of Conspiracy,” and “Deceived by Trust” for Lifetime. Her book of humor essays, Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry, is available in paperback and digital formats.