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Early Morning in the Land of Dreams

Early Morning in the Land of Dreams

The people in Marla Cantrell’s debut collection of southern short stories dream big, fall hard, and set the record straight. Each is like the literary version of a country song, full of heart and rhythm. The common thread is that they’re all set in either a real or imagined Arkansas, during the four seasons of the year. Redemption happens on an icy day, spring brings rebellion, summer finds a woman reckoning with a choice she made years ago, and fall starts with a woman standing buck naked in the picture window of her house.

In the title story, “Early Morning in the Land of Dreams,” a tough-as-nails woman breaks all the rules at her job at a data collection center, giving advice to the callers who’ve come to depend on her to get them through the night. “Calling Out the Moon” explores the breadth and width of friendship, particularly between two men who’ve known each other for more than sixty years. In “The Constitutional Rights of Gilly Lamproe,” a convenience store clerk takes on The Man to prove she’s every bit as good as anybody else—and a whole lot more fun. “A Million Shattered Stars” begins with a contentious relationship between a mother and her daughter and ends with fireworks everywhere. Glen Campbell shows up in “Remnants of Another Time,” three days after his death, to save a woman whose life is crumbling.

Cantrell’s voice is spare and complicated, a feat that’s not easy to achieve, but one that makes these stories shimmer. The people she writes about live in small places, on land that means something to them. In this regard, the stories take on the additional meaning of place. Early Morning in the Land of Dreams couldn’t be set anywhere else. It is a love letter to Arkansas from Cantrell, the winner of an Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship Award in Short Fiction.

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