Laika – Ian Green
Taken from the Anthology of short stories recently published by the wonderful Open Pen (http://www.openpen.co.uk)
“Laika is a tender tale of an old man who has removed himself from life and human companionship. Instead he favours protective isolation until his nurturing of a wounded dog to health brings him back to the world.
It’s a touching concept but the narrative feels like it has missed an opportunity. We are intrigued at first by the old man’s eccentric behavior, but the backstory of his past life is revealed early on and the mystery is quickly swept away leaving a frustration that we could have been left guessing still longer. The writer doesn’t ask us to work very hard. There are wonderful touches of detail –“at three o’clock every day I eat a tin of sardines in olive oil“ – but they are sparse and undermined by the reliance on those few. The tin of sardines (sometimes salmon) pops up again and again, as does the smell of citrus and pennies (?) and although these are both themes that tie the timeline together, they are with us far too often.
Then there is the change of audience half way through. We are led to believe that we are the audience, but after caring for the dog the storyteller directs the story at him – “We go and you run and sniff at bushes. The wounds on your legs are scars now.” Where does that leave us?
The story has a real charm and a touching ending. We want to believe in the old man and understand his eccentricities, yet, although we are told why he is as he is, we are not fully shown how that affects him. We want to empathise with him, but occasionally the back-story threatens to get in the way. In this case a little ‘less story’ might have given us more opportunity to get to ‘know’ him more.”
The SHORT TALE Review 2016
Check out Open Pen Anthology