The Scent of Letting Go

Review of the story A Faraway Smell of Lemon” by Rachel Joyce.

101c2-farawaysmelloflemonBinny isn’t in the Christmas mood, so she ducks into the first shop she can find to avoid the cheer of another mother. What she finds there is far more than some items she has no interest in buying.

Hello, my name is Davida and I’m a Rachel Joyce addict. I am hereby publicly admitting that after I read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” and “Perfect” I couldn’t wait to read something else by her. So I immediately bought her short story “A Faraway Smell of Lemon,” despite knowing that it was a Christmas story. (Of course, being Jewish most of these holiday stories don’t interest me.) But I am truly glad I did, since it was not at all like any Christmas tale I’d ever read before.

This is really about Binny, a woman who – much like me – isn’t much of a housekeeper. So when she finds herself in a specialty shop of cleaning equipment, she feels very much out of her element. But that’s not Binny’s real problem, and with the help of the shop assistant, she finds herself on a journey of self discovery. Where she finds it taking her, surprises both Binny and the reader, and all within a mere 20 pages of prose.

This is very much a Joyce theme. Joyce knows exactly how to take something completely ordinary and allow it to affect her characters in an extraordinary way. More importantly, the emotional somersaults her characters go through are handled in a matter-of-fact manner, and never seem overly sentimental. With all this, she also includes almost poetic descriptions that become visually alive to the imaginations of her readers.

I’d be fooling myself if I found any fault with this story, aside from the desire to want more. With her short story “A Faraway Smell of Lemon” Rachel Joyce deserves yet again, a full five stars out of five. UPDATE: This story was included in Rachel Joyce’s short story collection “A Snow Garden.”


“A Faraway Smell of Lemon” by Rachel Joyce was published as an eBook by Random House, released on December 3, 2013 and is available (via these affiliate links) from Amazon, the website, iTunes (eBook), Walmart (Kobo) eBooks (USA, Canada & Australia), new or used from Alibris, or used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literacy).

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