Verdict: Though the synoptic narrative creates a fast read, the intriguing elements of the stories in "Women Are from Venus" are obscured by the broad, flat descriptions.
In Author Ed Brodow’s collection of four short stories, he reveals protagonists who battle against self-doubt, bureaucracy and societal expectations. The first story, Women From Venus, is about renowned psychotherapist, Dr. Robert Elgar who doesn’t believe in alien abductions, just the conspiracy to keep them alive. Though he can stand firm against other doctors, institutions and scientists, his attraction to the beautiful Arabella Sedgewick may be the beginning of his demise and steadfast non-belief in aliens. Clifford Day Vanderwall is the second protagonist in The Man Who Couldn’t Make Up His Mind, and appears to have found the dream wife who is happy to make all Clifford’s life-changing decisions. In The Stamp, our gritty, tough ex-Marine finds himself in a foreign land, tracking down his sister’s murderer to avenge her death. Finally, I’ll Take Manhattan has a mediocre lawyer who is fighting for the rights of the Lenape Indians who want to regain ownership of Manhattan.
Author Ed Brodow’s diverting stories reveal diverse tones, settings, characters and psychological experiences: from a famous doctor to a hen-pecked husband, to a dangerous tropical jungle to the city of Manhattan. The quotations that preface each chapter also work well to set up the story that is to follow. For example, Vanderwall’s story is introduced by Yogi Berra’s quotation: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” These quotations also set up the irony in the stories, or give a glimpse into the protagonists’ entertaining obstacles in life.
The writing style is reminiscent to the narrator’s introduction in The Twilight Zone television series with concise, deadpan narrative that sets up the story. Though this straight to the point narrative works well to cut to the chase in the stories, at times the dry, obscure descriptions and obtrusive, judgmental narrative presence can hinder the reader involvement: “A law library is a stuffy place crowded with musty old volumes of babble written by semi-literate judges. It has the ambiance of a relic from another age.”
While the general narrative works to gloss over the story, at times it is overdone and the story reads more as a synopsis of the stories, rendering the situations and characters generic: “Elgar’s artistic reverie was interrupted by an attractive woman with a sexy English accent.” Another example includes when another character is given a “large fruit”. Further description reveals that it was “in the grapefruit family and was quite tasty.”
Though the writing is clean, the point of view and tense jumps around confusingly in several stories: “As he strolled around the quaint village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Elgar was thrilled to discover the absence of billboards… It seems they were replaced by trees. The town boasts an equal number of restaurants and art galleries.” This changing point of view also serves to reduce the effectiveness of the stories.
Though the synoptic narrative creates a fast read, the intriguing elements of the stories in Women From Venus are obscured by the broad, flat descriptions.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader
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