Stories by Robin Parks
ISBN 978-0-9913555-0-1, paperback, 150 pages, $16.95, October 2014
Showing a distinctly un-glamorous side of Southern California, these haunting, lyrical tales are set in run-down diners and other neighborhood eateries with names that range from the prosaic (Breakfast) to the whimsical (Egg Heaven). In one place they offer only chicken pot pie, all day, every day. In another, they serve you what they think you need—order pancakes, you might get a BLT.
Waitresses, cooks, and customers collide, coexist, sometimes offer comfort along with grilled cheese sandwiches or chorizo-scrambled eggs. A young woman grieving the loss of her mother finds solace in her job at a Mexican restaurant and a celebration of the Día de los Muertos. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, a teenager lands a job in a diner with so few customers she spends all day playing Scrabble and eating french fries with her boss, a hapless alcoholic. A Vietnam vet suffering from post-traumatic stress finds a kindred spirit in the waitress who serves him hash browns every morning. A waitress braces herself each day for a visit by her schizophrenic mother, who swoops down on her place of work to steal her tips.
Lost mothers, runaway mothers, mother-substitutes. Daughters fleeing their old lives and waiting to build new ones. Men and women worn down with disappointment who still manage to form connections with each other, share moments of joy. These are lives on the margin, portrayed with respect and compassion by an author who spent almost a decade working as a waitress herself.
ROBIN PARKS, winner of the Raymond Carver Short Story Award, grew up on welfare in Long Beach, California, where she spent most of her twenties working as a waitress. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Bellingham Review, The MacGuffin, Prism International, and other journals. She has an MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Reviews and Interviews
Praise for Egg Heaven
This engaging collection … will reward any short fiction reader who picks it up.—Booklist
Parks is a master of the short story…. [She] connects us all with the poetry of the human experience. —Foreword Reviews
“Working class fiction” has long occupied a distinctive subcategory of American literature…. The nine stories contained in Robin Parks’s debut collection, Egg Heaven, make for a welcome addition to this milieu and refreshingly expound upon blue collar themes…. Egg Heaven illuminates a world entirely its own, its authenticity built upon the subtle, vital gesture.—Kenyon Review
Parks serves up unflinching explorations of grief, abandonment, love, and redemption…. The commonality that links the characters in this collection is their desire to form connections with others, and Parks’s characters are masterfully nuanced…. Threaded by their losses, Parks’s protagonists are compelling, not only in their sadness, but their search for renewal.—American Book Review
Parks is a stunningly gifted writer. —PANK Magazine
Robin Parks is a skilled and elegiac storyteller. The stories in Egg Heaven are as tough as their terrain, but also mournful, surprising, and vivid. — René Steinke, author of Friendswood
In Robin Parks’s characters, in these finely wrought stories, we find a simple and decided and unflinching dignity and courage. —Thomas E. Kennedy, author of The Copenhagen Quartet
These stories of loss, longing, sudden departures, and necessary reconciliation break the heart. But Parks’s compassion for her characters bleeds through the wreckage of their lives; we are presented, ultimately, with a picture of healing and hope. —Gina Ochsner, Flannery O’Connor Award winner, author of The Necessary Grace to Fall and The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight
Parks has captured the dilemmas of folks perched on the continent’s western edge and treading the brink, always en route in an effort to sate the hungers they can name as well as those they cannot. These are stories of restlessness fed by emptiness, the kind that can starve a soul. —Renée Ashley, author of Because I Am the Shore I Want to Be the Sea
Home to drifters, loners, and those people with the third eye who seek out and embrace the sorrows of others. —Kathleen Alcalá, author of Spirits of the Ordinary
Rarely does a collection achieve what we find here: art that truthfully captures both the fragility and strength of human relationships. Egg Heaven is astonishingly satisfying. —Maureen O’Brien, author of B-Mother and The Other Cradling