Jay currently lives in Somerset, which she considers to be a gem among English counties. She has lived and worked in many places in England, Wales, Alberta and British Columbia. Holding dual citizenship through her father, who was born in Toronto, a visit to her ‘other country’ included a stay in her father’s city followed by the four day train journey to the West coast. She describes the trip as ‘the only way for an English visitor to start to comprehend the vastness and diversity of this land’.
While admitting that trying so many different areas of work may not be ideal for most people, Jay believes that her experiences have given her insights that enrich her writing. She describes writing as ‘enormously enjoyable and satisfying, but second only to golf in the level of frustration that must be endured to achieve the desired goal’.
Never Too Late (Changes #1)
New Beginnings (Changes #2)
Short story collections:
As The Sun Goes Down
Editor and contributor to Of Words and Water 2013 and Of Words and Water 2014 (short story and poetry collections published in support of WaterAid)
Planned for publication in December 2014: A Strong Brew
on July 06, 2014 :
This collection of anecdotes, vignettes, or skits, usually begin with the heroine at a tipping point. What pushed her to this crisis? The explanation comes, sometimes narrated through her thoughts or a conversation. She must choose to step beyond the point of no return. To remain is to stagnate or suffer misery. To step out is to risk all on the promise of fulfillment.
Without exception, each short story involves layers of meaning, where we see similarities and differences between characters.
1. For Better, For Worse.
Louise must decide whether to stay a servant to her husband and grown children or declare her independence. Emotionally she is wounded, and she reveals the back story through her mental lamentation. Her reasoning seems valid, but we need proof of what she's gone through. Here we have the wounded as the result of an offstage battle. We need the action of enough scenes to show us the story.
Howard's writing is so good that I feel this story is an experiment in minimalism. But does it engage the reader? Not this one. Too much “woe is me.” While thought is desirable, it lacks the balance of action that initiates the thought. Without balance, the read becomes tedious.
Here is my favorite, a deceptively simple story, sweet and elegantly told. An artist finds meaning and love in a subject that has always terrified another woman. It is the other woman who feels compelled to face her phobia and embrace a new life. The story is well organized, and the description is luscious. That and the action bring us into the mood.
3. The Inheritance
This is more a vignette than a story. A granddaughter is staggered to learn she inherited a vast estate. She feels so unlikely a recipient that she delves into the whys of it and what the future can bring.
4. Popping the Cherry
Howard tells us an amusing anecdote about what happens when two young children play dress-up and how their game differs from the game their parents play. It is lovingly told as we see the children at play.
5. Moon River
A mother, single for seven years, must take a chance on reviving an old dream that had ended in betrayal. The same characteristics she loves in her little son are the same she sees in her returned husband. Can she risk forgiving him and accepting the bright future he promises?
6. A Nice Cup of Tea
In this vignette, Laura visits an old flame and sees how he has become like his father. Should she become like his mother?
7. The Scent of Autumn
We see a contrast of religion and science, and we look at the survival of the fittest relationships.
8. Tomorrow is Another Life
To save her unborn baby from abortion, Daphne runs away from her unfaithful husband after guaranteeing her safety. How she does it is impressively narrated. Over the years she rejoices that her daughter is one female he can never use.
9. Decimal Point
Martha risks investing in a dream with money mistakenly sent to her account. We get a detailed list of what could be called info dump in this story, but I found it interesting and compelling.
The stories are uneven. Some are barely developed—which makes it hard to care—while others have greater depth, enabling us to identify more easily with the heroine. Through it all, we see an example of fine writing.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on June 02, 2014 :
Entertaining, well paced with strong narration. Each of these similar but different tales has the above in common as well as a decided female point of view.
My favorite was Popping the Cherry - a funny look at the taboos hidden in any married couple’s bedroom. Howard’s prowess at comedic description shines. Always teetering at the edge of salaciousness but never falling into the abyss. A skill that requires an artful hand and a twist of the absurdity of everyday living. Well done Madame.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on May 31, 2014 :
In the nine stories contained in Similar Differences, Jay Howard explores the lives of nine women faced with tipping points in their lives. The decisions they make, and the how and why they make them, drive the tension in each tale. These are women we know—mothers, wives, the woman on the bus—but whose secret hearts have been kept hidden. Even under a calm demeanor, these characters seethe. They burn with resentment, with anger, with fear, with love.
In any collection, the reader will have favorites. I was especially fond of “For Better, For Worse,” in which a woman sitting on a park bench comes to grips with her life and decides to change it, and “Maman,” a story of overcoming fear and being mother to our own lives. I wished “The Inheritance” was expanded to a full novel. That’s the way these stories are: they pull you in deeply with just a few pages and the reader wants the story to go on and on. Highly recommended.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)