By Peta Gaye-Nash

With today’s fast paced lifestyles, reading a good short story collection feels immensely satisfying. An entire life can be devoured in one story and one sitting. Fran Edelstein’s short story collection “Set to Music” has some of those kinds of stories that are hard to put down and contains whole lives that keep the reader aching for more.

Self published by iUniverse in 2009, “Set to Music” has seven stories that take the reader to London, Rome, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City to name a few, with characters who love passionately and with abandon but ultimately succumb to the realities of life. In “Lilacs”, Jordana, married with children, attempts to write a story about her childhood love, a boy with whom she lost contact with in World War II. Unbeknownst to Jordana, her lost love is trying to find her in the time before computers and the Internet. Finally, he traces her to Toronto where they meet by chance encounter on Queen’s Quay. The reader’s heart is wrenched along with Jordana’s. Does she reveal her identity and run away with her true love or does she find closure simply knowing he’s alive but remaining dutiful and loyal to her husband and children?

“The Mantilla” is prose beautifully written. The passionate flamenco dancer Carmelita is scorned by her lover and she curses the lace mantilla he gifts her. Her fiery dance summons the devil and she throws it at her lover hoping to curse his life but it lands elsewhere. The cursed mantilla destroys the life of whoever owns it, as it journeys around the world, falling into unsuspecting hands.

In the title story “Set to Music”, Anne, about to become a renowned pianist, has a secret that will ultimately destroy her career. This secret destroys her love affair with her maestro, a man who devotes himself to Anne and her talent and is confused by her abrupt departure with no explanation.

Edelstein’s gift is her ability to compose a good love story and leave us yearning for more but the collection is not equally yoked. One of the stories, ‘The Road Ahead’ feels more self help than fiction, written in the spirit of the Alchemist, but I didn’t think it enhanced the collection.

Edelstein started writing in high school and after a few kindly written rejections, was told by a teacher that one is not a writer until a wall is papered with rejections. Fran waited until after raising a family of three children to focus seriously on her writing but she never gave it up entirely. In the pre-computer age, she says her kids always found pieces of paper around the house with ideas on it. “Once a writer, always a writer,” she laughs. She found success writing feature stories for the Toronto Star and several antique magazines. At 42, Fran began to take creative writing courses and now years later, a grandmother of eight, Fran is about to self-publish the sequel to the title story “Set to Music”, living proof that it’s never too late to live your dream.

“SET TO MUSIC” Can be found in the Toronto Library System or ordered from Chapters