Review of 'Flamingo Funeral'
A first-time collection that requires reading with a Southern accent.
By Rebecca Lynn Aulph
Alabama-based writer Kat Kennedy’s first self-published collection, “Flamingo Funeral & Tales from the Land of Tea Cakes and Whiskey,” contains a novella and five other short stories, but leaves the reader wanting more. The stories in this collection take place in the Deep South, are haunted by the past and toy with the notion of family loyalty. Throughout each, Kennedy explores how flawed characters handle themselves within dilapidated settings and grotesque situations. She doesn’t invite readers in with Southern hospitality, but instead tempts them with the Southern Gothic.
The title novella, Flamingo Funeral, asks readers to offer their condolences to Jen after she learns of her Uncle Gus’s bizarre death and travels to Clayville along the Chattahoochee for his equally bizarre bathtub, backyard, beach funeral. Although the story comes from Jen’s first-person perspective, the main character of this novella is already-dead Gus.
He’s not speaking from the grave, though. Instead, the novella follows his loved ones as they recount his crazy past of drinking with his pet monkey, Otis, and respect his crazy wishes by cleaning off the old Elvis picture he peed on so they can cover up the hole in the wall where his bathtub used to be before the visitation. All the while, friends and family curse Gus’s name under the “whaump” of flamingos.
“To be buried in that tub at sunrise with them stupid birds a-flappin around and all his friends and family partyin with him all night long. Whatever Gus wants, Gus gets. Even if the SOB is deader’n shit.”
Only in the end does anyone, including the reader, mourn Gus’s loss, which is sadder than anybody can predict.
A short list finalist for the 2012 William Faulkner-Wisdom competition, Flamingo Funeral does not serve as an interpretive key for the short stories that follow it, but the novella does start the trend of using characters’ flashbacks to interpret strange events. The remaining main characters found in the five short stories are alive, but they live in Gus’s shadow and produce less action than he did dead. This turns their tales into character sketches. Two young girls escape their drunk dads with different feelings, a young girl finds solace in food, a woman resorts to shooting at her relatives, and a bartender who would rather drink alone. The short story with the most action, Slow Dog Fast Train, involves the family dog committing suicide.
While short stories and novellas are supposed to be short, this collection could have been longer. I finished “Flamingo Funeral” and wanted to keep reading. The character sketches only continued to whet this veracious reader’s appetite. How you enjoy this collection will depend on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person. It may even shift your paradigm.
Rebecca Lynn Aulph is an intern at Deep South, living in Decatur, Georgia. Find out more about her in our Contributors section, and read her posts about participating in National Novel Writing Month here.
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