Jim Tomlinson’s stories in his collection Nothing Like an Ocean and the characters who inhabit them run as deep as the ocean. There’s something endearing about these people struggling to get by, get past, get closer. Tomlinson’s writing is smooth, his worlds easy to enter.
My favorites were the title story; Angel, His Rabbit, and Kyle McKell; Overburden; and A Male Influence in the House. Perhaps they stood out for me because Tomlinson does not shield his readers from the uncomfortable, or the uneasiness of despair. He doesn’t shield us from three quietly broken adults all complicit in a child’s death, doesn’t shield us from a soldier’s brokenness and anger, doesn’t shield us from the murder of whole mountain tops and all the life reliant on those ecosystems, doesn’t shield us from the horror of a young man poisoning himself in an attempt to feel something other than his lonely anguish.
There are no neat, happy endings but therein lies the veracity of this collection. And often Tomlinson’s endings are spot-on gorgeous such as the one in Overburden, juxtaposed as it is against so much destruction:
“Inside Sarah will tell him that her labor has started, early pains, but unmistakable. There’s no need to rush, she’ll say, but they shouldn’t delay, either, getting to the hospital. It’s only a matter of time. Yes it’s five weeks early, maybe six, but their future, she’ll assure him, is most certainly happening now.”
- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.