'An unwavering look at the darker side of humanity in these very readable stories.'
THE PIOUS ROBBER | HERIZONS MAGAZINE SPRING 2014
It is said that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover; but with The Pious Robber, it is entirely appropriate. The murky sepia photograph of a seated woman, featured blurred, is slightly unsettling. So, too, are many of the stories in Harriet Richards' collection. Misfortune and tragedy circle the characters like carrion birds. They struggle with infertility, depression and addiction; they commit infidelity, murder and suicide. In Richards' capable hands, however, these cheerless stories make for compelling reading, "Sometimes it Seemed" and the title story, "The Pious Robber" are standouts.
For Mary Jane, the narrator of "Sometimes it Seemed," life is a burden, something to endured. Her aging appearance bothers her, she sometimes thinks she hates her husband, and she is not pleased about having to return to the workforce, In her current state of mind, even a trip to the mall proves to be an ordeal. Still, she dismisses how she feels as "a garden variety depression" — specifically, "a marigold or begonia or geranium of a depression."
In "The Pious Robber," a summer holiday at the lake takes an unexpected turn for 11-year-old sisters Bethany and Mouse when they discover an injured criminal. Even though it becomes apparent that the criminal has a mental health condition, the girls make a game of it, hiding him in a boathouse and supplying him with food. But, as the days go by and the novelty wears thin, the sisters must find a solution to the problem he has become.
Harriet Richards takes an unwavering look at the darker side of humanity in these very readable stories. Some will surprise, a few will disturb. The essence of this collection is summed up perfectly in the words of one of her characters: "We bang around all of us together on this earth, sometimes being useful, sometimes making graceful gestures, but generally unaware in any meaningful way of anybody who is not ourselves."
- Sylvia Santiago