Encore from Australian author Margaret Lynette Sharp is a collection of twenty-four short stories built around the themes of love, betrayal, loss and redemption. From sixteen year old Annie, in Annie’s Story that details her attraction to and obsession with her fantasy about Keiran, to middle-aged Caroline writing to her sister in Letters to Nanette to explain she has finally found love and is prepared to take a risk to explore the possibilities, Sharp covers the full gamut of relationships both familial and romantic. One of the commonest themes running through these short stories is that of betrayal and how we all handle such things differently. Do we still pine for our lost love and how hard is it to commit to someone when that flame lurks in the background? In A Date to Remember Gary is talked into to taking the wallflower sister of his mate, out on a date. Violet proves to be more than just a wallflower as she opens up and blooms on the date, way beyond Gary’s expectations.
The volume of stories makes this book easy to read as each story can be read in one quick sitting. The topics are issues that we all face and have to deal with on a regular basis. I found Encore a gentle, satisfying read and I’m impressed with Margaret Lynette Sharp’s approach to the conclusion of each tale. There are no unexpected twists or turns, just a subtle, telling thought or message for the reader to take on board. With this many stories, I’m sure each reader will find a few favourites. For me, there were two stories that stood out and impressed me the most. A Date to Remember makes us realise that the popular, pretty, social butterflies are not always the best choices for our long-term relationships. We should look deeper, beyond the surface superficiality and take the time to explore the less adept at socialising and watch them develop and bloom into the beautiful people they always were. The Brave Do Conquer reminds us to not settle for mediocrity, but to follow our bliss and chase our dreams. All in all, a satisfying, little collection of short stories.