I'd read and loved a couple of Kathleen Norris' novels before, and these short stories are every bit as wonderful. My top favorites are "The Tide-Marsh," "The Measure of Margaret Coppered" and "Rosemary's Stepmother." They're chiefly stories of love, family life and relationships—between sweethearts, husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, in-laws and more. Norris writes about the little details of everyday domestic life in a way that makes them seem both appealing and significant. And fittingly for a writer who placed so much emphasis on the joys of motherhood, I noticed that she is also able to write characters of children in a natural way and incorporate them into a story well. There is plenty of charming humor through the whole book, but some of the stories ("Bridging the Years" and "The Rainbow's End" in particular) are touching enough to bring the tears to your eyes.
(I must say, though, the one character I did want to give a good shaking was the heroine of "Making Allowances For Mamma," for the way she kept putting her flighty mother before her husband!)
The stories are mostly set in California, with a few forays to Boston and New York. It's a California of the Edwardian era that seems like another world nowadays, with the different settings—from suburban bungalows to country villages to remote ranches, and even an electrical power plant deep in the redwood-forested mountains—evoked in beautiful detail. It isn't often that a volume of short stories impresses me this much, but now that I've finished the book, I'm going back and re-reading them to savor them a second time. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.
Poor, Dear Margaret Kirby is available for free on Kindle, Nook and in various formats at Project Gutenberg. This is an entry for the weekly blog event Friday's Forgotten Books, hosted by Patti Abbott.