'Egg Lady' provides fun fiction from the farm
- by Sean Meehan (Sioux City Journal, 2004)

This first collection of short stories by Tricia Currans-Sheehan, winner of the Headwaters Literary Competition, calls to mind a principle that creative writing teachers frequently express to the less experienced writers in their charge. The principle is to write what you know, to make fictional worlds out of what is most familiar. The elegance and experience with which Currans-Sheehan tells the stories of “The Egg Lady and Other Neighbors,” stories all familiar to her upbringing on and around Iowa farm, suggests that the principles is wisely taught.

The places and the people that comprise the neighborhood of these stories will seem familiar to many of the readers of this review. A native of Emmetsburg, a graduate of Briar Cliff and now a resident of Sioux City and professor of English at Briar Cliff University, Currans-Sheehan recreates in her stories the rich aroma of the Iowa farm community. It is a world where the female narrators and protagonists struggle to understand reticent fathers, as in the simple yet harrowing story “Margaret” and seek to reconcile conflicts with estranged relatives or widowed mothers, as in “Called for Action” a story where conflict with the Catholic Church forms the background for reconciliation in the home.

But this familiar landscape is also a place of the unknown, these are also neighbors that are, in ways, crucial to the creative insight and achievement of this collection, strange. The peculiar delight and interest that readers will find in this work, then, especially readers that know the places and the people as well as the author knows them, will be for all the surprises it gives. In this, Currans-Sheehan evokes the fiction of Flannery O’Connor, America’s great 20th century writer of the grotesque and exotic that inhabits the everyday world. In the title story “The Egg Lady” we find in the everyday experience of eggs the defiance and shock of the unexpected, like a metaphorical punch to the face. I won’t give away where that punch comes, only that its effect captures much of what is engaging in these stories. They invite us in to a world we may know from our own pasts, but they also put us on notice and make a stand: there is more to see and understand. Like the neighbors within them, Tricia Currans-Sheehan’s stories will entertain and surprise. Whether revisiting these neighbors from their own past or meeting them for the first time, readers will enjoy getting to know them better.

Sean Meehan is a professor of English at Morningside College.