Where Oceans Meet by Heather McQuillan

A review of the flash fiction collection Where Oceans Meet by Heather McQuillan.

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Where Oceans Meet is a flash fiction collection, which feels like it gives the reader snapshot moments into the lives of characters. However, these moments are far from fleeting as they dive into themes like nature, realism and surrealism, and life itself. In ‘A Loose Filling’ we are taken on a journey into someone’s past—the portal being a seemingly mundane moment of a couple watching TV, but McQuillan surprises us in a metaphor that is delicate, strange, and brilliant.

The author, Heather McQuillan, was born in Kent, but shortly after her birth her family moved to New Zealand. She is a teacher, has a BA in Education, and an MA in Creative Writing. McQuillan’s writing has won an array of awards, some of which include the NZ Flash Fiction Day (winner 2016), Best Small Fictions (2017), Best Microfiction (2019), and the crafting of the stories in Where Oceans Meet reflects her experience and skill in its quality.

The emotions explored in these stories have depth; the characters feel fragile. In the opening story, ‘This is How it Begins,’ we meet Maddy, who is searching for connection but she seems to meet her father’s leather belt more often that her father himself. The ocean, in this story, oozes a sense of comfort and safety but it is “not a swimming beach” and all Maddy can do is “throw handfuls back into the foam.” Similarly, the last story, ‘The Stairwell,’ does not give the reader a resolved comfortable conclusion, as these characters are still searching for something. In this case, we are left in an empty space feeling confused, sad, and touched.

Overall, this collection is enjoyable in its unique form, and although it may feel overwhelming at times, it is quick to read and the fantastic language leaves you with stunning images that are penetrated with varied emotions. This really is a beautiful collection of flash fiction.

Kirsty Louise Farley is an English Lit graduate from Ramsgate, loves all things gothic, Pop Punk and walking her dog by the sea.

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