Tuesday, May 15, 2012



Girl in the Mirror by Jack Lynch
(Reed & Quill Press, Inc., Flushing, NY, 2010)

The Victims of Circumstance: Abandonment
and Estrangement in Jack Lynch’s Girl in the Mirror

An abandoned woman down on her luck finds herself alone, struggling for emotional integrity and survival in a shelter for the forgotten. To whom can she turn? A perpetual loner finds solace in the hospitality of a Good Samaritan and his compassionate mother. A rejected lover out for revenge treacherously seduces her former lover’s best friend only to discover belatedly that the latter two had previously covertly conspired this “chance meeting.” Her plan is thwarted. A young man’s mother, lost at birth, leaves him a legacy of familial dysfunctionality and burden, confronted with the likes of a shiftless, parasitic, alcoholic father, a resentful stepmother and an inferential guilt complex and conflict over the abandonment of his two younger, psychologically dependent siblings in furtherance of his personal welfare and success. Another young victim of terminal familial surroundings and integrity is compelled to emotionally mature before his time, embracing the reality that his mother’s indifference cannot lay the foundation for his pride and self-worth. “Salud,” “The Ferry,” “Carmen,” “The Visit,” “Johnny Grows Up”—love loss, abandonment and parental neglect are thematically prevalent throughout author Jack Lynch’s Girl in the Mirror, a collection of seven fictional shorts depicting the harsh and bitter trials and emotional realities confronted by victims of desertion and parental disregard. Written with a clear sense of empathy and familiarity, the writer’s narratives will appeal to a reading audience of first-hand survivors of broken relationships and divided households.

Sadly, a vast number of the forsaken are not only emotionally attached to their partners but financially dependent as well, especially those left to fend, not only for themselves but for their children who, too, are victims of this selfish, destructive act of indifference. Such is the case with Inga Marie Anderson, forsaken by her husband Roger, now living a life of quiet desperation inside of a charitable home, pacing down Memory Lane and striving futilely to suppress her misery with fleeting moments of solace in a Macy’s department store. Momentarily entertaining the possibility of a newfound romance, she ultimately makes the decision to dismiss this errant, fleeting thought and perpetuate her mourning for Roger (9-24).

Fifty-year-old Eddie boards a boat bound for acceptance in “The Ferry,” as family-man Homer Kochones and his humanitarian mother Athena momentarily open home and hearth to this stranger of the night. After a brief sojourn with the Kochoneses, Eddie re-embarks the vessel, now headed for home, with a renewed outlook. Will he and Homer cultivate their friendship, or are they destined to be two ships that passed in the night (59-67)?

Forsaken and lustful for revenge, life deals Carmen an unjust and sadistic twist of fate when her deceptive seduction sequence with the best friend of the man who had previously hurt her had ironically already been contemplated and manipulated by the former lover and his friend. Having seemingly unknowingly crafting this bizarre and unlikely chain of events, Carmen’s former lover forces her into a frustrating and unresolved retreat. Was this encounter a devious game conspired by two sadistic men, or was it a sincere gesture of love and goodwill? Will Carmen fulfill her incessant need to avenge herself another day? The writer’s ambiguity and crypticism indeed leave these questions unanswered (70-77).

A drunken, dependent father, a scornful stepmother, an emotionally starved younger brother and sister desperate for his return—this is what young Jim Kelly confronts when he returns home to his family for a short visit—which, if anything, serves as an abrasive reminder of the reason why he took leave of his family initially, reminiscent of Tom Wingfield’s eventual stage exit in playwright Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (79-88; 96).

Innocence of youth becomes another casualty of a failing matrimonial institution in “Johnny Grows Up.” Young nine-year-old Johnny, compelled to vie with his sister and brother for his mother’s attention and approval, finally achieves something worthy of attention, a medal for academic excellence in history, only to find his breaking news and excitement discounted by his mother who is busied with other matters, namely, her hatred for her husband, with whom she is imminently destined for divorce. When she dismisses Johnny, neglecting to acknowledge her son’s accomplishment and share in his effervescence, he promptly discovers that one’s sense of pride and worth solely rests within himself (51-58).

The remaining plots feature a boy’s baptism in fire as he confronts the harsh realities of his parents’ failing relationship on his twelfth birthday (25-39), akin to “Johnny Grows Up,” and the other, a young man, unable to commit to a permanent, marital relationship, whose loving, faithful and hopeful partner of six years finally takes her leave in a motel room (41-50).

The forgotten’s struggle for survival, a forsaken’s self-destructive venom, three young victims of dysfunctional family units— “Salud,” “The Ferry,” “Carmen,” “The Visit” and “Johnny Grows Up” are written with ordinate and eloquent description and detail; thus, the rejected lover or individual of an estranged childhood will indeed appreciate and relate to any number of sagas featured in Jack Lynch’s Girl in the Mirror.

Works Cited

Lynch, Jack. Girl in the Mirror: Short Stories by Jack Lynch. New York: Reed and Quill Press, 2010. Print.

---. “A Birthday.” Lynch 25-39.

---. “Carmen.” Lynch 69-77.

---. “The Ferry.” Lynch 59-67.

---. “Johnny Grows Up.” Lynch 51-58.

---. “The Motel Room.” Lynch 41-50.

---. “Salud.” Lynch 9-23.

---. “The Visit.” Lynch 79-88.

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: New Directions Books, 1973. Print.


Nicholas T. Spatafora is an educator at Joseph Pulitzer Intermediate School in Jackson Heights, Queens and an English Professor at the City University of New York. He holds two graduate degrees from Hunter College in New York City and has enjoyed a successful career in education spanning twenty five years. Contemplating a life in Catholic ministry, he attended Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in New York. He is a member of the Tao Society in Tai Pei, and prior affiliations include the Religious Society of Friends and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. Spatafora is the author of Hurt, the feature article “Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha: A Fictional Account of the Life of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha,” “A Review of Jack Lynch’s Manhattan Man and Other Poems,” “Challenging Perspectives: A Review of Thomas Fink’s & Maya Diablo Mason’s AutopsyTurvy,” “Kingdom by the Harbor,” “Allen Bramhall’s Days Poem: A Critical Analysis of a Dying Art,” “The Word: An Analysis of The Chained Hay(na)ku Project,“ featured in Galatea Resurrects, “Love Stories: An Analysis of Eileen R. Tabios’ Silk Egg,” featured in Our Own Voice, and “Love Loss: Reflections on Eileen Tabios’ The Thorn Rosary,” published by Marsh Hawk Press. Nicholas Spatafora and his wife Hsiaochen (Judy) reside in Flushing, New York.

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