Consonant Sounds for Fish Songs by Traci Chee

Candle-Ends: Reviews
Shelley Carpenter

Traci Chee creates an opus of emotional echoes and poetic nostalgia within her short story collection, Consonant Sounds for Fish Songs (Aqueous Books, 2012), seventeen stories written in gorgeous prose that is eloquent, evocative, and edgy, capturing the big questions and the small moments of the ordinary and the extraordinary.

It’s about falling, it’s about dizziness and the blank step into the spaces between notes, it’s about missing the beat and having it come back to you, it’s about upsurging and deep places, it’s about the sudden blinding burst of light. — “The Human Organ”

Each story is a pearl—unique and shimmering, strung together with silky threads composed of music, water, and life. They are allegories of misfits. They are metaphors about fishes, first loves, and transformations, evoking fairytale, myth, and creation, the search for God and the longing for something more.

Within these stories, the reader will meet the strange and surreal. Worlds collide as animals and humans take on new forms and consciousness: a bear and a shark share a moment of existential thought; a crab takes on the weight of a boy’s soul, carrying him through life and loss; a fish reflects on his life as a human. For some of Chee’s characters the magical fabric of life is found within the folds of a kiss, in the beat of a popular song, or in the stars that fall to earth.

Other stories consider the intersections of life and death, love and regret, through adventure and peril on the road and on the high seas. In “Raft,” water is a personified character as well as the ocean that keeps company with a lost and lonely lovesick pilot whose plane has crashed. Reality blurs as the pilot lives in the past, the present, and the future. He is surrounded by water and is strangely sustained by it as he drifts further and further toward another body of water that is saltless and sentimental.

That’s not all. Consonant Sounds for Fish Songs contains images as well as prose. Chee takes her readers with her on a graphic journey through a series of letters written on postcards, accompanied by photographs and iconic images. Even the type itself holds meaning as it appears in poetic and stunning, artful form.

Chee’s collection of stories capture the moment, much like the impressionist painters did with their brushstrokes, collecting the light, the love, and the magic of life, holding it up for the reader to see like fireflies in a summer jar.


Traci Chee is a freelance writer. She holds a degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in Prick of the Spindle, Thieves Jargon, Abjective, Able Muse, The Big Stupid Review and Toasted Cheese.


Shelley Carpenter is TC’s Reviews Editor. Email: harpspeed[at]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email