Verdict: SPLIT ROCK ROAD is a collection that will easily evoke an emotional response from its readers. Sometimes that response will be uncomfortable, sometimes uplifting, but it will always be honest.
Readers who enjoy taking an unflinching look at themselves and the world around them will be enthralled with author James McAllen’s debut release.
The 20 original short stories contained in SPLIT ROCK ROAD are a diverse look at humanity. The stories themselves cover a range of circumstances and situations including unrequited love found on a subway train in “Beatrice,” mental illness and homelessness in “Love and Lizards,” and a father/son trip to the ball field in “Foul Ball!” Ranging from flash fiction to short story length, the recurring themes of those things which make humans decidedly human—love and loss and human frailties among them—are threaded throughout as a consistent unifier.
Crafting a collection of stories that would not only be universally relatable by the vast majority of its readers, but unfailingly consistent in each story’s presentation is an accomplishment, one that Mr. McAllen achieves with seeming ease. Each story presents an image of New York—a city that sometimes speaks to the emotional distance humans maintain from themselves and from each other—and provides a self-contained snapshot of the complexity of human emotions. Not a word is wasted or used unnecessarily, each used to paint a vivid picture of the vulnerable core that people strive to hide beneath the mask of contentment and happiness shown to the world around them. While a few of the shorter stories feel slightly unfinished, it doesn’t detract but a minute amount from the author’s skill at constructing situations that perfectly capture both the normalcy of everyday life and the essence of the human condition.
SPLIT ROCK ROAD is a collection that will easily evoke an emotional response from its readers. Sometimes that response will be uncomfortable, sometimes uplifting, but it will always be honest.
Reviewed for IndieReader by K.J. Pierce