Girl by the River: Short stories by Norah Babington

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A truly beautiful book!

Reviewed in the United Kingdom

Sensitive observations of life in its complex, unpredictable ways. Fragile moments of loss, change and emotion. Rich in subtle metaphors, written in a colourful poetic language, this book is full of psychological insight. Riveting reading, I find.

Cover illustration; «Crepuscule», painting by David Wells Roth

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~~~~~

Hudson River lay quiet. If one hadn’t known it to be a river, one could have believed that it was a meadow that opened up the dark evening landscape. But the river was breathing with a silent surge, as from a whale far away.

Like a mirage, the small form she had found sitting on sharp rocks down by the riverbed after her husband’s funeral, emerged in her memory. The house had been packed with relatives she hadn’t known he had and of lawyer colleagues and acquaintances who wanted to give condolences and reminisce. Lucy was nowhere to be found. She had searched the whole house before she finally had found her sitting there. It was not until she had come close to her that she could hear the dry sobs from the slumped, small figure.

“I don’t know how to live, Mother. I don’t know how to live.”

Mother.That formal word. As if she was saying, keep your distance. In that moment, all she could do was try to cross the bridge between them by reaching out to her daughter’s vulnerability.

“My baby.”

And then she had stepped through her own fear of rejection and had sat down next to her daughter. Put her arm around her. She had held her arm around her, hadn’t she? What had she said. My baby. Had she said more than that?

She must have said more.

 

From the short story "This Life", Girl by the River by Norah Babington

 

Captivating reflections on life

Reviewed in the United Kingdom  

A book that comes to life from page to page. The reader is drawn into each story and there is always a purpose why the reader should continue their reading, until the the end of each story. The feeling of curiosity, is always there. It is a brilliant book that will leave your thoughts long after reading this book! The illustrator and the writer of this book has a beautiful togetherness.

~~~~~

A teasing voice behind her.

“Nora.”

She did not have to turn around to know who it belonged to. She felt a warm breath down her neck. Bad breath. Fear. He was nervous. She looked straight into the eyes in the mirror on the elevator wall in front of her.

“Soon you will dance for me,” he whispered and drilled his brown eyes through the mirror and deep into her.

Or so he thought.

He made an excellent Thorvald. Good looking. A little stupid. Completely blind. He did not see the warning signs that lit up signaling danger when he put his arm around the shoulders of the director, as if they were comrades in the enchanted world of art. Blind like a bat, he overlooked his boss's eyes as they sparkled with irony over this actor’s delusions of brotherhood. He crossed lines and laws that were much older than this building they spent most of their time in.

With a house in suburbia and a devoted wife who had parked her short dancer’s career in order to serve him two newly-fed, newly-combed, newly-rested kids, whom she rolled into the artists’ café Harlequin in the short lunch breaks, he strutted around the theater as the virile and perfect family man for a family he hardly knew and almost never saw.

“My little, delicious featherhead,” he murmured in her ear before he disappeared out of the elevator and proceeded down the corridor to his dressing room. Knowing very well that she still had her eyes on him, he lifted up his jeans with a casual grip in his belt, while he whistled the melody from the tarantella.

An athletic butt was the last thing she saw before he closed the door behind him.

 

From the short story "Lost", Girl by the River by Norah Babington

Highly recommendable

Reviewed in the United Kingdom  

Strong and dramatic, interesting psychological stories showing great insight in human thinking and life challenges.

~~~~~

Both she and Andor were charged for concubinacy and mendicancy and sentenced to confirmation. Since they both lacked a domiciliary, they were put in arrest on bread and water until the Poor Relief could decide where they should belong.

Finally, it was decided in which city they would place them, and he was sent to the correction house. She ended up in the women’s penitentiary for punishment and reformation. A cantor taught her reading and catechisms until she could finally stand in front of the priest for her confirmation. The priest was noticeably pleased with her rectification and the following year she was released.

Not long after, Andor, too, was set free with his health still intact. And when they returned to the priest and beseeched him to unite them in lawful wedlock, he endorsed their choice towards a virtuous life away from their heartless and thoughtless existence and was visibly content with how the punishment and the admonitions had led them away from their hardened condition.

They never saw the two others from their small pack again. Maybe he had caught jaundice and died at the house of correction. The former inmates were easily recognizable in the city, as they emerged like yellow ghosts from alleys and entryways. Maybe the woman had finished up in an asylum.

She had always been too easy to tears.

 

From the short story "The Visitor", Girl by the River by Norah Babington

Wonderfully written.

Reviewed in the United States 

Dramatic, complicated relationships. Both touching and engaging. Can't wait for her next book!

~~~~~

Carol’s eyes were posing the question she had seen in so many patients’ eyes when a session was over.

How am I going to cope out there when you’re not with me?

Then with a sudden move, she disappeared out the door and closed it behind her, almost without a sound.

A wrinkly ball of Kleenex, with some brown stripes of eyeshadow on it, was left on the table. She threw it into the garbage bin behind her desk, emptied the glass of water and sat down with the Dictaphone.

There was that dove again.

Now it was staring at her from the windowsill on the right corner of the window. It had been on the left side yesterday. Would it hang upside down like a circus artist tomorrow, just to catch her attention? To tell her something? If that dove could talk, what would it say? You are just as featherless today as you were yesterday. How does it feel to be you? Why don’t you play bird and I’ll play you and then we will see who resembles most. 78, it cooed.

She grabbed the Dictaphone as it was about to fall out of her hand. She had almost dozed off. How could she have confused herself with what year. Of course it was 78.

She had definitely gotten too little sleep last night.

“Carol still navigates through a child’s need to be seen and loved. Does not spot healthy men. Seeks same dysfunctionality as she knows from adolescent years. Her ex’s degradation still shapes her perception of self. Poor connection to her own emotions and needs. Disturbed sleep pattern. Driven by fear of not being sufficient and seeks rejection. Moderate depression ongoing.”

Click. The red eye of the Dictaphone died out.

The dove was gone.

 

From the short story "This Life", Girl by the River by Norah Babington

Timeless and eternal

Reviewed in the United States 

Beautifully written with depth and heart. Can’t wait for another book by this amazing writer. Its an easy read that reads as timeless and eternal as a classic story that we all love and know universally.

~~~~~

Thoughts do not know vertical or horizontal. They neither sit nor stand. They know of no age. They are the hyenas that follow you over mountains ranges, through narrow passes, up in the air and down again. They hunt you through time zones and across borders. They know they will catch you in the end and laugh their mocking, high pitched laughter when you start running and the rocks start sliding down the hillside under your shoes and you start slipping down towards the abyss.

And there, their brothers are waiting for you.

And they have many brothers.

Not that I can run far. It is six feet and ten inches between the chair and the bed. If I include the step when my feet hit the floor as I move my body from laying down position to sitting up, my feet divide the distance into one more step and it feels a bit longer.

But it only feels that way.

If I, on the other hand, decide to make the operation of taking a turn towards the lidless toilet that is placed up against the wall opposite the bed, I can brag to myself of having taken a sophisticated detour that places my thoughts at an arm`s length, to put it that way.

But thoughts cannot be measured in inches and feet. There is no distance between them and I.

I do not know whom I'm writing to.

I have no one left.

If thoughts can read, this will be to them.

 

From the short story "Valiant", Girl by the River by Norah Babington

About the Author

Norah Babington has worked professionally as an actress/dancer most of her life. She has studiet and performed with artists across the globe, amongst them professors from the Peking Opera Academy in Beijing, to Theatre du Solèil in Paris, as well as having lived and worked with the neapolitan composer and musician Pino Daniele. Her genuine curiosity of the human psyche and passion to dive into the multilayered drama that often makes or breakes human lives, drew her to her profession. The same passion to lead the readers into captivating stories where the gallery of characters become alive and their dreams, struggles and emotions tangible and real, is a driving force in her writing. She now enjoys living in a small, English garden town with her husband and their golden lab.

About the Illustrator

David Wells Roth is an American fine artist, portraitist and illustrator. His paintings of cities, seascapes and European and American landscapes can be found in public, private and museum collections throughout Europe and the United States. He was also awarded the commission to paint all the judicial portraits of the United States federal court of the district of Puerto Rico. His illustrations cover a wide range of media including the Wall Street Journal and the History Channel.  After living and painting in Europe for 15 years, he now resides and paints in a small New England town.

See more of his works here: www.davidwellsroth.com