First Advisor

Leni Zumas

Date of Publication

Spring 6-14-2016

Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing






Northern California -- Fiction, Country life -- Fiction



Physical Description

1 online resource (ii, 67 pages)


The Gate is a collection of short stories by Cassondra Bird Combs. Combs' first collection is heavily inspired by the small Northern California towns she grew up in, and the disillusioned characters who live there. The Gate marks the introduction of an incredibly sympathetic voice, a voice hard to find in modern literature, that didn't rise from New York or Iowa but from a youth spent in solitude in the redwoods. Combs' characters range from a fifteen-year-old girl trapped in an endless abusive cycle to a young man whose parents have suddenly left him to a older woman trying to end her marriage by burning Christmas trees in the street.

In these seven stories, Combs reminds us time and time again of the advantages and disadvantages of a rural life, and forges connection between character and reader in a remarkable way. In "Little World" a little girl is paralyzed by fear of the dark but is stronger than she knows. In "Turn" a young woman has to make peace with her past and escape. In "B-Side" a recovering addict realizes the thing he needs isn't the thing he wants. In a voice entirely in tune with the hum of the woods and alive with unusual descriptions and deft character traits, Combs' collection will keep you reading.


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