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Short Story Collection Review    



The Spider's Web: A Novella and Other Stories
by Wayne Greenhaw
River City Publishing, 2003
Hardcover, $23.95 (200 pages)
ISBN: 1-57966-044-4

"Life is complex and fragile like a spider's web."

Wayne Greenhaw's The Spider's Web: a novella and other stories reflects the trials of coming of age for Thomas Morgan Reed from age twelve to that time when adult children come to terms with the loss of their parents. The Alabama landscape and culture of the 1950s South come out in these captivating tales of anguish, perception and acceptance.

"The Spider's Web" is a touching journey into a Birmingham's children's ward during the 1950s. Fourteen-year-old Thomas is discovered to have scoliosis, curvature of the spine from most likely a light case of polio as an infant. He must wear a body case while the doctor tries to straight his back before fusing the backbone in surgery. While there, he befriends two teenagers who think of the ward as home. Lanier Thompkins, sixteen, suffers from a degenerative hip, but rules the ward with his outgoing spirit and compassion. Sara Jane Matthews, seventeen, has been in an iron lung most of her life. Together as prisoners of their bodies, the three explore their awakening hormones through erotic literature and fantasies. As Thomas stares at the ceiling from the prison of his body cast, he watches a spider build a web.

The other seven short stories capture other key moments in Thomas's journey to manhood. In "My Original Sin," he dreams of the young wife next door and the way she hangs the laundry on the clothesline. Thomas puts his "Handbook for Boys" to work during a visit with a slower cousin, who saves him in the river without resorting to scout skills. Bully or friend is the question Thomas faces in "Season of Fear." Thomas and his best friend use a country girl with her permission for discovering sex, and in that "Summer Romance" Thomas faces a test of his Christian faith.

The last three stories deal with the adult Thomas and his parents. There are some family secrets that it is hard for an adult child to learn, as Thomas does in "Blood Kin." His father's mental illness and death are explored in "I'll Fly Away." And finally, Thomas celebrates his mother in her last days in "My Mother's Ear."

A shorter version of the title novella, "The Spider's Web," won the national Hackney Literary Award for short stories. Greenhaw began writing as a teenager shortly after he spent months in a children's clinic undergoing spinal surgery, much like Thomas Morgan Reed in "The Spider's Web."

Wayne Greenhaw has published fifteen books of fiction and nonfiction. He is also the author of several stage plays and a screenplay of his novel, The Long Journey. He lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with his wife, Sally.

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

2003 Southern Scribe Reviews, All Rights Reserved