Dear Hearts by Barbara Miller Biles

The stories in Barbara Miller Biles’ debut collection, Dear Hearts, display a quality of raw emotion that is deeply affecting. These stories—presented in five sections: “Tender Hearts,” “Geneva Stories,” “Surreal Hearts,” “Janet Stories” and “Sorry Hearts”— trace the progress of naïve young female characters from childhood or adolescence toward a state of greater maturity. At times, this passage is marked by a tragic loss of innocence. 

The first two stories, “Lila” and “Sylvia,” chronicle the abrupt changes that take place in the lives of the title characters as they grow into sexual awareness. The “Geneva Stories” are set in small-town Canada and told from the perspective of young Geneva Roberts. In “Rockin’ Around the Royal Bank of Canada,” Geneva and her friends are fascinated by a family that has recently moved to their town of Bradshaw—classmate Diane Wedder, her mother and brother—and the rumour spreading that Mr. Wedder is in jail somewhere. Diane never really fits in, and there is something about the Wedders that seems unsavoury: Geneva muses, “Diane is on the shady side, unacceptable, like nail polish.” Eventually, the Wedders live up to the rumours and rampant speculation by skipping town, leaving behind an accumulation of debt. And in “Marrying Stationary,” Geneva, now an art history major, is planning her wedding with Kevin, whose father owns a chain of stationery stores. But a call from a former boyfriend and a mediocre mark on an essay cause her to second-guess her decision.  

Later in the volume we meet people confronting end-of-life situations and others trying to control over-active imaginations.  

The lives Biles writes about are nothing special but are tinged with yearning, romance and wistful backward glances into the past that touch us on a visceral level. Barbara Miller Biles writes stories that make us think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. This is a smart and thoroughly engaging debut volume by a writer who knows much about the workings of the human heart.

  • Finalist, 2021 High Plains Book Awards – Short Stories

Barbara Miller Biles is a Calgary writer. She attended the University of Alberta and taught primary school until her own daughter and son were born. She explored fiction writing in extension courses and local writing groups. Her short fiction has appeared in Canada, the U.S., the UK, and Sweden, in various literary magazines including, FreeFall, The Nashwaak Review, The Antigonish Review, The Windsor Review,The Broken City, Turk’s Head Review, Femmuary and others.

  • Publisher : Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series (Sept. 10 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771337532
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771337533

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Ian Colford’s short fiction has appeared in many literary publications, in print and online. His work has been shortlisted for the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, the Journey Prize, the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and others. His latest novel, The Confessions of Joseph Blanchard, was the winner of the 2022 Guernica Prize and was published by Guernica Editions in 2023. He lives in Halifax.