Whenever I read collections of any kind, I always try to find the link between each installment. In other words, what the overarching concept is and whether or not it is expressed successfully. Once in a Blue Moon seems to focus on an individual's sense of belonging and purpose. By the end of the collection, I felt satisfied. This is largely because of the final installment, the title short story, Once in a Blue Moon.
Once in a Blue Moon is enthralling and enchanting. His characterization of the mythological made this installment my favorite of his three short stories instantly. Ping's prose spoke with sincerity, passion and confidence. His descriptions seem to explore themselves, delving into the subtle art of stream of consciousness. Ping is very gifted at expressing his settings, characters and ideas in this way. It gives his writing a certain signature. The quality of the writing is flawless in this installment. While the longest of the three tales, it moves with a deliberate fluidity. In short, it mesmerized me.
I gave Once in a Blue Moon 5/5 stars.
The Mother's Day Gift, the second story in this collection, changed the pace nicely. I appreciated how easily he shifted his style and narration to accommodate the main character of the story, a 6 year old boy. The boy muses about his relationship he has with his mother and wants more than anything to show his appreciation for her. What he learns about his relationship threatens to change his perception of his mother and his life in general. Ping expresses the love shared between the mother and son genuinely, again with the use of stream of consciousness from the point of view of the boy. Upon finishing this story I felt a certain afterglow, like I would when finishing a phenomenal poem.
I gave The Mother's Day Gift 4/5 stars.
This brings me to first installment presented in this collection: Of Sand and Castles. As a whole this story is underdeveloped. I have a soft spot in my heart for feudal tales. I ate, slept and breathed Arthurian romance and anything involving kings, their ladies and their knights as a boy, and felt very excited at the story's start because I knew it was headed in that direction. Unfortunately it did not meet my expectations.
Descriptions are muddy in most areas: I have a very hard time picturing the characters and the setting. While there are places in this tale where Ping could develop his characters to illustrate their obligations as princes and their disdain for being so cloistered, he fails to do so in this story.
Ping attempts to utilize language and sentence structure in his narration to draw readers into the time period and setting of his tale, and while I understood that; he only succeeds in bogging the narration and the whole of the story down.
As in his other stories, there are moments that display his talent. Without a doubt I know, with more development, Of Sand and Castles can be as memorable as the other stories presented in the Once in a Blue Moon collection.
In its current state, Of Sand and Castles received 1/5 stars.
As I said before, I felt satisfied by the end of the collection and decided to average my three ratings together. It comes to an average of 3.7 stars, which I rounded up to 4.