This collection of short stories quietly muses on the construct of time and how we cope with what’s lost.
Each story deals in some way with the past and how it intrudes, sometimes literally, on the present. In some stories, traveling across eras is a way for a narrator to learn more about a loved one, as in “Down the Rabbit Hole,” when Matt enters the basement of a retirement home in Boston to find a room of people sheltering from the London Blitz during WWII and meets his grandfather as a young pilot.
In other stories, the past represents a simpler, nostalgic time, as when Marlee in “Through a Glass Darkly” finds a hidden stair in her Aunt Victoria’s house that takes her to an alleyway from the past where her young aunt is playing with childhood friends.
And sometimes the past reaches forward, as in “Click,” when the narrator’s deceased mother shows up in photographs, watching over him. The narrators in “Telephone Daze” and “On Schemes and Scandals” solve old mysteries by their mysterious access to snippets from the past.
The writing is capable, if in need of a few grammatical corrections, and Markham pulls off the magical realism of her premise. However, the intersections of time provoke curiosity but not growth or change in the characters. Without the impact of a larger meaning, the twists grow to feel gimmicky. For example, the doctor in “Chameleon” drinks his own potion to change his appearance, but we never see the consequences of that choice. And in “Fastforward,” where a video camera reveals the narrator committing murder, the motives are only vaguely hinted at, not explored.
Overall, the stories land too lightly, more likely to leave the reader puzzled and wondering about the point, than fully satisfied. Even so, some might enjoy the theme that our own desires aren’t always conscious and time is illusory.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.