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Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitton is the lighthearted tale of a Hungarian town reluctantly moving into the 21st century before even catching up with the 20th. The term lighthearted, here, should not be confused with insignificant or throw-away. It is light in the style of Italo Calvino who uses humor to point out the foibles of society.
Zivatar is the town history ignored–no bombings during WWII, no tanks rolling through during the 1956 Revolution. The current older population looks back wistfully on Communism, not as dogma, but as a convenience that would have provided security in their old age. Now the mayor––once a loyal party member, now an ardent capitalisit––is determined to drag his small town into the future, building a train station and constantly courting foreign investors with the promise of new factories and jobs. In a town where everyone is still either a farmer, a shopkeeper, or a craftsman, where everyone travels on foot or on bicycles, the mayor takes his Mercedes to travel just down the block.
Valeria is an old spinster, once jilted, who afterward never enjoyed life and became the town hag, until love presents itself in the form of the town's Potter. The Potter, a widow, has had a short fling with the pub-owner, Ibolya, herself somewhat disillusioned with life and love. None of these characters is young any longer, yet, like the town, they teeter on the brink of change, at times lured by its promise; at times recoiling in fear.
Marc Fenton is Editor of the Chattahoochee Review, and anyone who has read the short fiction that appears there may, as I was, be somewhat surprised at his writing style. However, it is definitely a pleasant surprise and one I would highly recommend.