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Reviewed by Jack Messenger for Readers' Favorite
Jendi Reiter’s An Incomplete List of My Wishes comprises several Southern tales (specifically, the state of Georgia) amongst others, some set in the Reagan era of the 1980s, as well as others in the '90s. Important as the South is, however, it really serves as a cultural lens through which to see other, more personal themes: family, faith, ambition, memory, violence, death, error, regret, sexuality – above all, gayness. Gayness (male and female) could only emerge in a hostile environment, so that children and teenagers aware of the direction their bodies are taking have the added burden of concealment, an instinctive survival technique that can so often confuse and dismay.
The eleven wonderful short stories collected together for the first time in An Incomplete List of My Wishes have already won a number of prestigious literary prizes. This new compilation deserves a special prize of its own. From first to last, short to long, and without exception, these stories are never less than beautiful exemplars of the form, written by an author capable of anything, it seems, except second best. A monograph could be written about each of the eleven, for they all accomplish so much on different levels within their short span. Many of them are quietly moving, surprising the reader with their emotional dexterity, their complexities of tone and points of view. All provoke thought and feeling, an experience of having lived something one might not otherwise have known.
Jendi Reiter’s An Incomplete List of My Wishes will only begin to give up its secrets after repeated readings. And while some of its more arcane references and allusions to popular US culture will not be recognized by non-Americans, it hardly matters. We can still be reminded to cherish love and kindness in all their manifestations, to sorrow for mistakes and injustices, to value people whose impulse is for life, to enjoy the art of the short story at its most sublime.