“Her characters linger. You imagine you see them in small town shopping malls, at county fairs, fast food restaurants, in pickup trucks and hospital waiting rooms. Her prose is as precise and welcome as rain in July. And her stories always stand up for more than one reading….
“Nieman knows the language of fishing, of farms, country stores that stock things like pickling salts. And car parts, etc. She’s one of few writers who is equally at home and at ease in both male and female viewpoints.”
Ruth Moose in The Pilot
“If I had to pick a favorite, the one that chooses me is ‘Housecleaning.’ This is an amazing piece of work. First, it turns on its head the old concept for house- or barn-raising as a communal celebration. And then because it deals with nearly unbearable pain in a direct/indirect way that produces strong narrative. For the strange but utterly convincing idea that divorce might be a worthy civic effort. For the brilliant details about tearing down a house; you got all that right. If you hadn’t, the story would not work because it is a ritual story and rituals have to be letter perfect in every detail to be efficacious. Because it is, Lord help us, an allegory that is not mechanical or boring or dumbass. Because there is such a beautiful feeling of cleansing release at the end. Because Nan is strong and smart and good and grateful.
“Everywhere I looked in Fidelities I saw details that were true, characters I could recognize, places like the ones I know, situations so common they are strange and others so strange they must be common, and writing that is clear, steady, sometimes surprising, just, and observant even when excited….”
Short stories called Fidelities is published by Vandalia Press, an imprint of West Virginia University Press. This book has a lot of emotional punch, and Jennifer Lynch's review at GRAFITTI NEWSPAPER (http://www.grafwv.com/) says, "No matter where you open Fidelities, a collection of short stories by Valerie Nieman....it's full of intriguing people [and] interesting puzzles that leave the reader wondering about their complexities long after reading it.....Taken individually, each story looks at the life of characters so real and intricate, I felt I knew someone just like many of them. Taken as a whole, the collection is an interpretative look at the motivations, loyalties and obligations of a group of ordinary individuals. "
Meredith Sue Willis
Women make great storytellers. In fact, they tell some of the most important stories—those of life and death, family and strangers, ordinary and extraordinary events. Two new short-story collections show everything women-as-storytellers have to offer us. The tales in Quinn Dalton’s Bulletproof Girl and Valerie Nieman’s Fidelities cover the range of experiences we know as life and do it with unblinking eyes and open hearts....
Dalton’s stories feel very up-close, as though the reader is inside the characters’ heads. Valerie Nieman’s Fidelities provides a longer view, like the difference between taking a panoramic photograph versus one at close range. The perspective is different, but no less interesting. In the first story, “Worth,” the reader sees what the fisherman does: “Close to the island, the ganders crooned and flattened themselves to the lake surface. The geese turned away. They didn’t pay any more attention than they did to the fisherman who cast and cast, the blade of his spinner turning slowly as it arced down, until it splayed on the water and sank.”
Sometimes Nieman moves close enough to smell and taste. In “Act of Grace,” Roberta describes the experience of working in a donut shop: “I remember the way my hands were always sticky with sugar and spilled coffee, and how the counter rags would turn sour despite the constant wiping of sweet crumbs. White shoes were stiffened by dabs of frosting and fresh glaze.”
Some of Nieman’s pieces are more a snapshot than a full story, but it does not lessen the impact of her words. In “Trout” Callie merely lies on a bed and remembers a past incident: “She lay perfectly still on the bed. She was as old now as her mother had been that afternoon. She was frightened now as her mother had been, knowing that the power of bare flesh in the sun is temporary, passing away like water, that it is leached away in childbearing and wifehood.”
By Therese Boyd in the News & Record
"The denouement and the game warden’s demeanor make you feel as powerless as the main character. I find it interesting how the clash between average folks minding their own and the authorities is such a prevalent theme in Appalachian literature." Comments about "Worth," the lead story in Fidelities, reprinted in Degrees of Elevation, from Gonzalo B. on Charles Dodd White's blog