Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Release Date: 15/04/2019
Thank you to NetGalley who sent me this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
This is a collection of short stories surrounding how the narratives we tell affect our identities, and how an unreliable narrator can warp history. They each surround a person telling somebody else’s story and how it interlinks with their own. As we never get a first hand perspective from these people, we have to take the narrators’ word for it and consequently, the book is steeped in intrigue.
Admittedly, some of the stories fell short for me – particularly the one about the two comedian friends, one of whom has cancer, and the one about the self-help guru. The first one fell short, because I felt it was attempting to make a bad situation exciting and edgy, with the bumblebee and the cake, and it didn’t feel realistic to me. The story about the guru felt stale, and again edgy without reason. The part where Grant removes Turbo’s prosthetic hands felt unnecessary as it did nothing to further the plot. This was also the story that took me the longest to read and I felt, the way it was told, it became anti-climatic when it ought to have been shocking.
On the other hand, there were some strong stories within the collection. I would say the one set in the prison was my favourite as we witness firsthand what a master manipulator can be capable of. The use of a letter from the creative writing teacher at the beginning is incredibly effective, as it is showing how the main character can affect the people around him.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the story about the arrival of a new couple in a small town, because it had a Twin Peaks air about it. The original residents take pride in their town, and feel the new people are a threat. However, they are eventually sucked in by the woman’s charms, often to detrimental effect.
Bertin does not sugarcoat his writing, there are no flowery descriptions, he gets straight to the point. In some stories this worked well, making them feel gripping and tense. In others, though, it made them feel choppy and disjointed. Furthermore, some of his choice of language is distasteful. The example in the guru story mentioned above is one that made me uncomfortable. In the story about Cowan, a young boy named Holbrook is described as having “one of those deformed arms like a baked potato pushing out of his shoulder”, which is both ignorant and offensive.
Had these instances of ignorance surrounding disability been omitted or reworded, I would have given the book a solid three stars, as some of the stories do work well. However, because of the inclusion of these particular phrases, and the fact that some stories were quite a bit weaker, I chose to give the book as a whole a two stars.