Having read other reviews of Zarina Zabrisky's IRON (copyright 2012 Epic Rites Press), a quartet of short stories, I was struck by the widespread admiration her literary peers expressed for her work. Words like, “unforgettable,” “dangerous,” and “brutal,” were most often quoted. This is not surprising: according to Zabrisky's biography, her formative years were spent in post-Soviet Russia. But, one thing is clear, and, I have to agree: Zabrisky has hit the ground running with a strong literary debut that furthers the great tradition of Russian literature into the 21st century.
Iron is comprised of four stories; two mini-novellas, one short story, and one piece of flash fiction that drop the reader into a Russia, that, like its citizens, attempts to find a balance between its Communist past and its hedonist, capitalistic present. “Weeping Poppies,” begins with three young junkies in transit, simultaneously stealing poppies to facilitate their heroin addiction while evading any presence of authority. “The Cross of David,” opens with two women having lunch in an upscale restaurant as one attempts to convince another to assist in an internet retail scheme. “The Hungry Duck,” starts with an ultimatum given to the story's protagonist, in regards to the drunken, violent actions of her sibling. Lastly, the title piece,“Iron,” launches the reader into the mind of an almost bride-to-be as she, and her younger sister are unknowingly kidnapped by a group of young Georgian youths.
The four protagonists in Zabrisky's stories have several things in common; they are intelligent, vulnerable, and brutally honest with themselves. The growth of Zabrinsky's women is internal, as well as exquisitely painful; they hold nothing back, which does not render them likable, but, imminently believable, as in the story, “The Cross of David,” where,the narrator, after being verbally nagged by her friend Peggy to assist in the sale of cross pendants, starts to reveal the truth of her refusal:
I once wore a cross. For five years I wore a cheap brass cross. I could still remember the blue silk thread cutting into the back of my neck. I remembered the acidic smell of the brass. The Russian Orthodox cross—a sticklike figurine spread-eagled on the petal-like bars. A dead mosquito in a daisy. I believed it would save me, somehow. I believed in the suffering and its saving powers.
I won't take this any further, suffice it to say that the endings to all four of Zabrisky's stories in IRON are unexpected. As for Zabrisky's narrative style; it's not pretty, elegant, or even classically feminine, and those are its best qualities. These are stories about REAL people, REAL women that one can instantaneously identify with... and, they'll get right up into your cerebellum and STAY THERE! This is what makes IRON such a stellar book! Buy a copy of IRON, read it, think about it, and read it again.
IRON, Zarina Zabrisky, copyright 2012 Epic Rites Press, ISBN 978-1-926860-13-8, 84 pages, $13.50
Article content © 2013 Marie Lecrivain