Review of Merle’s Door
If you don’t ‘get’ the relationship that can exist between human and dog, you probably haven’t yet met your first life-altering canine. In Merle’s Door, a dog-of-a-lifetime turns up unexpectedly and endears himself irrevocably to author Ted Kerasote. The book explores their path to and through their human-canine bond. The science, history and philosophy that Kerasote injects to illustrate why dogs are as they are keeps the book in emotional check. The author challenges conventional wisdom on topics from sterilization and off-leash life to end-of-life. Some might call the author’s perspective extreme. Those are the folks whose heart has never been captured by a dog.
A hybrid of narrative and poetry, whether you call it micro or sudden fiction, flash fiction by its containment in time and space challenges the writer to say more with fewer words. More and more I find myself enjoying flash fiction.
Debrah Strait unveils a delightful spectrum of voices and perspectives in Flash of the Pen. In “Businessman,” the aging protagonist notes, “You can’t tell by looking, but I used to be somebody around this town.” In “The Attic,” a curious child glimpses unknowingly at infidelity and, taking a child’s logical course, seeks answers from precisely the wrong source. The humor is sly. The style crisp. What a great way to explore the author’s range.
The underlying inciting incident of Riversong, the young widow’s owing a huge debt to unscrupulous characters after her husband’s suicide, seemed shaky, but the unfolding story was entirely followable. Her relocation to the downtrodden town that was her childhood home moves the plot forward, for the town is peppered with charmingly appealing and sordidly unappealing characters with whom she must interact. Her reactions to life appear accurately tainted by her background as the child of a practicing alcoholic. And then grace in the form of gifts that come undeservedly and unexpectedly enters the picture. Some grammar clunkers pulled me out of the action and away from the flow. Still, the author’s sincerity and craftsmanship made Riversong an enjoyable novel.
Seagull: A Southern Novel by Lawton Paul is a young adult historical novel set in the 1980s Northern Florida. This coming of age novel has cross-over appeal to an adult audience. The fears, anxieties and conflicts that the likable main character encounters feel genuine and immediate. The supporting characters lend plenty of texture, and the river landscape is real enough to smell. The action moves quickly, if perhaps too telescopically quickly near the end. The grammar is untidy. If this is deliberate to reflect the main character’s vulnerable but growing-in-strength point of view, then curse the critic and laud the writer. It’s certainly not Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, but it is a solidly entertaining read.
Indie authors who dig deep and contribute thoughtful, worthwhile reading deserve attention and respect. Lynn Kinnaman’s short and jolting Unintended Consequences is just such a book.
Poignant and pragmatically grounded, Kinnaman’s portrayal of a family coping with untimely death unearths the spectrum of human emotion without a shred of sentimentality while it explores a rare look at an uncommon human attribute–mercy. As the main character acknowledges,
“There was no reason to hurt my daughter with the betrayal that had shattered my trust.
“The truth didn’t always set you free.
“Sometimes it took you down.”
Brava, Kinnaman, for going deep.
Hard working authors deserve a lot of credit, and it’s my goal to provide reviews from time to time in this space. One type of novel I especially admire the young adult novel that crosses over to adult novel. The Sweet Trade by Debrah Strait is an historical YA novel that grown-ups can relish, too.
The Sweet Trade flies open mid-action and the pace never flags for a second. It’s fierce, fast, fun, unsettling and riveting, with a wild cast of intriguing characters and a sense of historic truth. In one aspect, the novel is a coming of age tale set in a fascinating era of nation-state conflicts at sea and the role pirates played in a war-related economy. Hard-driving, hard-striving main character Dirk sets the bar high in battle and in romantic endeavors, so naturally conflict abounds. On a deep level, the novel explores one man’s battle to preserve decency, loyalty and his very humanity in a trade where both honor and dishonor are dangerous things. When an author does the work of vast research, meticulous character development and intricate plot weaving, the reader can simply enjoy the journey. The Sweet Trade is a delightful sail on fair winds and a following sea. Give me the sequel now.