Review of Tara Laskowski’s BYSTANDERS

Tara Laskowski. Santa Fe Writers Project, $15.95 (238p) ISBN: 9781939650382

Laskowski’s collection Bystanders explores the not-quite-everyday occurrences of everyday life. Each story is different—there are no extending plots throughout the collection—which makes each story refreshing. However, the magnifying glass Laskowski uses to peer into the human mind is something that’s prevalent throughout.
In “Death Wish”, a woman becomes obsessed with her coworker’s killer. In the wonderfully terrifying “The Monitor”, a family has a baby monitor that broadcasts horrifying images. Some stories are grounded with heavy tones and diction, while others are slightly shorter, less explicit, and provide a broader scope. “The Cat-Sitter” features a couple who trespasses into their neighbor’s apartment, revealing a shocking truth about one of them. In “Support”, a widow receives a letter from her dead husband who wants to visit her. “Entrapment” depicts a divorced news reporter covering a Judge’s infatuation with young girls.
Laskowski uses the length of the stories to enhance or obscure her characters and their innermost thoughts. “The Cat-Sitter” is one of the longer stories, and because of this we see an unsettling evolution in the characters as the plot unfolds. Other stories like “The Oregon Trail”, in which a family of three set out on a road trip, are a little less complex, where the reader is slightly displaced from the events. Regardless of length, Laskowski still manages to capture the essence of her characters. How much of this information she chooses to impart is important: Her characters and their intuitive actions are what drive each story, and her endings are largely ambiguous.
Laskowski’s words draw you in and hold fast your attention. Her stories ride the spectrum of strange or unnerving to downright frightening. (May 2016)

Purchase Bystanders HERE.

Reviewer bio: Morgan Leigh Plessner is an English Major and Photo Minor at the University of New Hampshire.