Published: 9 December 2017
Category: Fiction/Short Stories/Novella
In this collection, meet:
Franck, who has to align his desires with his needs; Nathan, who has to adjust to his constantly changing turf; and, Cedric, who has to open his eyes to reconstruct himself.
Rating: 2.3 Stars
This is the second collection of short stories I have read by this author. Last year it was The Sacrifice and following that book and this one, I can say that while I think the author is a determined one and has a good talent, there is something missing from the collections that keeps them from being great.
The Alignment (2 Stars)
The biggest problem with this first story is that it feels like it was written for a certain audience, one that has an understanding of business and consulting. There were terms and situations bandied about that I didn’t understand and that prohibited me from really getting into the story. This is to say, I don’t necessarily think it was solely a me problem, but rather people that don’t know the business world won’t fully grasp Franck’s job or the problems he’s dealing with in that regard.
Secondly, Franck was a wholly selfish individual that was masked by the writing. He didn’t deserve his wife or the happy-ish ending that he ended up getting. It seemed like all of the problems were centered around him. Even when he made comments about his wife, leaving her for the final three months of her pregnancy for an international job, it felt like it was more of an inconvenience for him than her.
I will say that the debt burden touched upon in this story felt like it veered toward authenticity. Franck and Armelle buy an apartment they can’t afford for appearances sake, mortgaging it so much that they miss two payments and the bank refuses to work with them any more. It’s a problem of their own making and while I think their escape was far too easy (of the rabbit-out-of-a-hat variety solution), the panic Franck experienced felt real.
The ending, with the loss and the separation etc., felt like Armelle (Franck’s wife) was set dressing as she served little purpose other than background and to give him a happy ending even after all of poor Franck’s suffering (#sarcasm).
The writing was alright. It wasn’t exactly bad, but I wouldn’t say it was the best it could be either. It felt like it was being throttled, like dry toast if you will. The events were being laid out, things that should have been full of emotion and drama were happening, but I didn’t feel any of them. I really think this could be fixed because the foundation is there.
The Changing Turf (3 Stars)
I’m conflicted about this story. The writing felt vastly improved from the previous one and I enjoyed that aspect for the most part.
However, the part where I have a problem is that there seemed something off about the development of the story. Nathan, the main character, is an immigrant to the U.S., New York specifically, in order to complete his doctorate degree. His story was an interesting one, it’s the events he faced that felt off. From offers from the bank to set up loans and debit cards to missing mail to a woman named Kelly he meets (and whose family acts oddly), it looked like there was some kind of scam going on that would pay off as the story ending, but these things didn’t actually lead in that direction. The overwhelming sense of dread that was built up became pointless.
There’s another woman he becomes involved with, Maya. When she’s introduced, her personality and her story are one thing and then by the end it’s as though she was replaced by another person altogether but the author kept the name. I felt duped into liking her because she begins as someone sympathetic, continues that way for a bit, and then it’s like a switch flipped. She acts terribly toward Nathan and ends up doing something that, while I agree with her ability to choose to do so, her method and decision making process was deeply flawed. It’s like the reader is meant to like her and then hate her, the way things were written. I couldn’t see the reason to do so, especially since Nathan’s journey could have been completed without sacrificing Maya’s character.
The Eye Opener (2 Stars )
There’s a poignant examination in this story about the effects of a prison term on convicts and what it means for them in their life afterwards. What it means for jobs, for how society views them, and the like. Nothing is the same, whether or not they actually committed the crime. The main character, Cedric, talks about not only that, but about how his “shame” affects his mother, how his brother was lost while he was imprisoned, and how his youth is now gone because of the crime he was framed for. The judgement of society is so harsh and makes it impossible for him to recreate a semblance of peace.
Besides these early social comments, I don’t find much likeability in Cedric. He was incredibly judgmental, particularly of the people that he blamed for his brother’s demise. What we don’t find out is whether or not that’s justified; going on Cedric’s attitude, I don’t think it is 100%. Cedric makes some rude comments about the girlfriend his brother had and about a girl he meets through the library. Overall, it made me think there was not a good opinion of women going on in this story.
There’s also quite a bit of coincidence toward the end. The resolution, the clearing of Cedric’s name, it’s all really easily done with evidence popping up that I didn’t find believable. The body of the story was stuffed full of all these details, parts of a larger thing, that were crammed into too short a space. If The Eye Opener had had more time to work on the different elements, develop relationships, work on the criminology/”mystery” aspects, then it might have turned out more satisfactorily.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.