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If You Liked “Dear Life”, You’ll Love…

dearAlice Munro’s peerless ability to give us the essence of a life in often brief but always spacious and timeless stories is once again everywhere apparent in Dear Life, her brilliant new collection.

In story after story, she illumines the moment a life is forever altered by a chance encounter or an action not taken, or by a simple twist of fate that turns a person out of his or her accustomed path and into a new way of being or thinking.

Suffused with Munro’s clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, these tales about departures and beginnings, accidents and dangers, and outgoings and homecomings both imagined and real, paint a radiant, indelible portrait of how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be.

If you liked Dear Life, you’ll love:

the seedTHE SEED & OTHER FAIRY TALES by Joseph Hillenbrand

Accompanied by illustrations from a number of different artists, this collection of nine original fairy tales range from flash-fiction to short story length, and, on the surface, relate the narratives of girls who consume their mothers or makers or animals they’ve saved, a boy who loses the stones that keep him grounded, a married couple who end up “stuck with each other” (quite literally), and the classic “happily ever after.”

While these stories contain all the traditional elements of fairy tales, Disney this collection is not. Reminiscent of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (minus the re-imagining of classic fairy tales and the feminist bent), Hillenbrand’s tales are dark and dangerous and deliciously quirky, but then again, they’re exactly what fairy tales should be.

When it comes to storytelling, Hillenbrand is a master craftsman. While THE SEED & OTHER FAIRY TALES would make a wonderful study for students, this collection is also perfectly suited to just be enjoyed.

alabamaALABAMA STORIES by John Isaac Jones

Set in Alabama over a period of about forty years beginning in the late 1940s, this exquisite collection of fifteen short stories provides snapshots into the lives of different characters.

Author John Isaac Jones writes with elegant simplicity, yet his narrative is rich with detail and the keen observation of the human character. Jones’s easy-going and familiar story-telling voice and descriptions place the reader in the heart of each story. The stories are simply told yet contains a paradox, an irony, a heartfelt lesson in love and life.

QUITQUIT SCHOOL! by Francis Bennett

Through eight short stories about one boy’s life, this collection examines the pains and pleasures of entering adolescence. From hunting deer in the woods to hunting ghosts in an old house, these original pieces have something to say, although the message isn’t always as humorous as the subtitle suggests.

While occasionally thought-provoking, QUIT SCHOOL! offers interesting slices of life, rather than practical lessons applicable to the average reader.

plowed inPLOWED IN: MORE SWITCHBLADE STORIES by Joe Del Priore

The black cover of this paperback shows a black and white head and shoulders shot of a man, part of a sinister face and an-almost neon yellow-green eye staring back, immediately setting the tone for the series of twenty-five short stories.

Author Joe Del Priore’s assortment of stories and characters are at once touching, funny, peculiar, strangely normal and oddly quite engrossing, delivered with a quick and sharp stab and provide glimpses into lives of people who are stuck, lost, plowed in. These quirky stories are snapshots into human emotions, thoughts, which reveal macabre darkness in human interaction and psyche, twists of fate and irreverent, tongue-in-cheek examinations of cultural icons.

PLOWED IN is an insightful and darkly humorous look at the human condition.

 

benevolentBENEVOLENT by Devon Trevarrow Flaherty

BENEVOLENT is at least partly the story of Gaby, a dedicated idealist devoted to rescuing and caring for other people, and Mikhail, the man who has loved her since they were teenagers, but never quite managed to tell her. As they grow up and wander both separately and together, they build a relationship neither of them will quite acknowledge. Both, however, share a vital interest in the story of a Queen of Northwyth, the Angel she loved but could never marry, and her eventual (and also beloved) husband Jaden the Great – tales that run through the book like a thread, involving a sacred seed with which the Queen and her Angel saved their country from destruction, split in two and lost to the generations.

This story is powerfully and evocatively written. The reader is given a host of perspectives in a sort of prose haiku, communicating feelings, emotions, and viewpoints with a few verbal glimpses and glances. Characters are fleshed out, human, and very lovable, with complicated personalities that do not necessarily reveal themselves all at once. The events of the plot, even the ordinary ones, are touched with a deeper, more substantial meaning that provokes both thought and feeling in the reader. In the end, even the fantasy aspects of the tale seem like natural outgrowths of the story. The writing is excellent, vivid and subtle at the same time.

BENEVOLENT is an artistic work, almost an exercise in verbal portrait painting or tapestry design, and is well worth exploring for its beautiful images and well-crafted characters.

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