by Candace CARMAN
Lilly Barnes's first collection of short stories hinges on the universality of secrets. We all have them, and all suffer from their destructive effects. If we are found out we may be punished, and often when, we are not found out, we punish ourselves.
Barnes's characters emerge from the lies and secrets that pervaded the Third Reich and its aftermath, in particular the theme of the impostor. Both hero and coward illustrate the fear of being exposed, demonstrated to be not "real." At the core of that fear lies "the secret," held like strong acid in fragile vessels - corrosive, distortive, and lethal.
Barnes's style is lean, her descriptions brisk and clean. Her six interrelated stories grow and change without the need to bring new guns on stage to fire every few pages. Frequently her power is felt through the recurring echo of a single shot. Barnes makes a brave statement about the nature of unreality and the conflicts that are engendered when reality is lethal.