Book Review – The Dog Thief: And Other Stories by Jill Kearney

It is often hard to describe the intricate relationships between animals and their humans. In her book, “The Dog Thief: And Other Stories,” Jill Kearney has no such issue, delivering a poignant collection of short stories that pull at your heartstrings, leaving imprints not likely to fade when the reading is finished.

Inspired by her own experiences working as a care provider and dog rescuer, Kearney spins the narratives of people forgotten or displaced by society, and the animals that place their trust in them. In her own words, “I’m interested in the lives of people who feel like they don’t matter to anyone.” This statement truly echoes throughout the book.

The collection begins with the self-titled novella, The Dog Thief, in which neighbors of a downtrodden community band together to rescue a couple of dogs from their neglectful owner. Donald, the owner of the dogs, actually inherits the dogs upon the death of his mother and then later, his sister. Donald is lazy and neglectful toward the dogs, yet one gets the impression he feels duty-bound to keep them. His protectiveness of the dogs however belies any regard he has toward their well-being, placing his mental capacity into question, at least for this reader. The author also weaves riveting subplots into the story as we follow Donald’s neighbors in their efforts to help. Dealing with the injustices and the confines of their environment, Elizabeth, Blacksnake, The One-Eyed Woman, and others provide intriguing viewpoints of the complex issues they encounter as they learn first-hand how seemingly insignificant acts can make a difference in the world.

The short stories that follow the novella are just as captivating, each one striking a chord within, causing a need to stop for contemplation before moving onto the next. I was so drawn by some of the characters and the ways I could feel what they were feeling and going through, I actually read several of the stories twice.

Kearney’s writing is passionate, straightforward and direct. Foregoing the need to placate the reader with sugar-coated narrative, her voice and certain outspoken nature tells it like it is, with a wit and freshness that is as charming and endearing as it is haunting and discomforting. Seriously, there is no way one can help but be moved by these stories. Some of the most paltry surroundings, places I could never have imagined, became clear and distinct in my mind through the vivid and rich descriptions presented by the author.

Heartbreak, helplessness, hope, and inspiration – these words only hint at the range of sensations readers will feel in these pages. “The Dog Thief: And Other Stories,” by Jill Kearney is a book I highly recommend. Pet and human advocates will be hard pressed to put this book down as Kearney provides an insightful look into what truly matters.

Short Fiction of William H Coles Book Review

The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 is a collection of 33 short stories, a novella and two graphic novels. Illustrations enhance each story, supplementing the readers experience and understanding. Peter Healy wonderfully illustrated the two graphic novels, which are the retelling of previous short stories in the collection.

The characters and themes throughout this book are unique. While they share the connectedness of human struggles and moral issues, they do not intertwine. There are many messages taught through these stories which include unconditional love, acceptance, stereotyping, anguish, faith, death, birth, family values and narcissistic behaviors. Most of the stories are dark and have a miserable ending. Some offer a glimpse of hope, while others are down right horrifying.

I felt I could connect to many of the stories because they accurately portray the world we live in. I was left wanting more information and personality from some of the stories; characters that had a little more feeling. My two favorites were The Gift and SISTER CARRIE, the novella.

The Gift takes place in 1959 with Catherine, the seventeen year old protagonist, who has recently discovered she is pregnant. Her father remains loving and supportive, but her mother feels shame at the thought of gossip. Catherine seeks the advice of a local priest who arranges for her to “visit” a convent in the south of France. The baby is born and swept away before Catherine is able to get a glimpse. However, she know’s something is wrong when she wakes up and her friend Maggie is crying by her bed. Catherine and Maggie set out on a mission to find the little girl that she loves. Over the years that follow, we are able to glimpse the unconditional love of a mother and the strong support of family and friends. But lurking in the background is a mother who is uncaring, distant and unkind. Everyone will be swayed to one side or the other. You can choose if compassion or selfishness is the right path to follow.

Sister Carrie is the longest story in the book. With the stories greater length the reader is able to develop more feelings for the characters over the course of the novella. As the story unfolds, we are introduced to seventeen year old Carrie who is reeling from the sudden death of her parents. Jessie, Carrie’s sister, is the only family member willing to take on the responsibility of a teenagers care. After only four months, Carrie meets a young immigrant on the internet and falls in love. Jessie despises this relationship and try’s everything she can to keep them apart. Will Carrie persevere in this relationship that appears to be anything but normal and support the man she loves? Who has the right to say if someone truly loves another.

Author William H. Coles, has won many awards, including The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition to name a few. I would highly recommend reading this contemporary collection of short stories by a talented author.

Book Review – The President’s Parasite and Other Short Stories by Jim Musgrave

The President’s Parasite and Other Short Stories

By Jim Musgrave

CIC Publishers

304 Pages

ISBN: 0977650367

The President’s Parasite and Other Short Stories is a rich collection of slice of life vignettes written with a melancholy flavor and a twist of dark humor in an easy-to-read conversational tone. Each story deserves a review of its own, but for this review I’ll mention a couple of my favorites. However, if you read this and are hungry for more, you can get your hands on a downloadable sampler of his stories on his blog “Let There Be Blog!”.

For this review, I thought I’d highlight a couple of my favorite stories:

Jim Musgrave’s engaging characters in Remembering to Laugh opens a window into everyday life into the “invisible America” that no one wants to see. This story’s protagonist is a Jewish woman who marries a blue-eyed, red-headed Irish cop much to his mother’s chagrin. The story highlights the changing relationship of the mother and wife as the two women learn to work together when the father-in-law, a Viet Nam vet with Alzheimer’s, needs to be cared for and the husband ends up in Iraq as a hostage. I could write an entire review on this story alone, and recommend it highly.

The Wager portrays a man who wins 117 million dollars in a lottery and bets his pastor that he can cause more trouble by trying to do good with his winnings than he would if he squanders it. If he doesn’t, he’ll give the rest of the money to the church, but if he wins the Pastor agrees to change the church into a Church of Satan. The pastor takes the bet. Talk about good versus evil! If you want to know how it plays out, you’ll have to buy the book.

The short story IS NOT dead. Jim’s stories vary enough that there’s no one marketing umbrella formula that can lump them together other than original, creative and thought provoking. His work affects the mind in a subtle way, much like Twilight Zone. It entertains but grabs you and doesn’t just let go until it threads into your mind and makes you think.