Elements of the Soul
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Twin Trinity Media; First edition (August 24, 2009)
I will start this book review by stating that I have two stories in this book. It would be silly (and of questionable ethics) to review my own work, so my opinions here are based on the other stories that are not mine.
Overall, I found the quality of the stories, editing and formatting in this anthology to be excellent. I don't usually pick up short story anthologies unless someone gives one to me as a gift, but I enjoyed being able to read a complete story in one sitting (i.e., a nice hot soak in the tub or a little light reading before bed). Although the stories were the winning entries in short story contests that were based on themes, the use of those themes varies quite a bit so it's a very eclectic collection.
Here is a run-down of the stories in the book:
"Jasper," by Lucinda Gunnin: Carrie and her ex-police dog Jasper witness a possible crime--or the cover-up of one--and soon find themselves in hot water. Realistic, stressful in the right places, and good characters that I enjoyed.
"Cicada Song," by Randy Barefoot: This is actually a poem, of which there are several in the book. I'm not big on poetry, so I'm not going to comment on them, except this one. That is a huge compliment! I LOVE this poem. It's everything a poem should be: artful language and imagery that transport you...without trying too hard.
"The Fire," by Jennifer Walker: My story of Heather's desperate flight from a forest fire with her friend's horses in tow.
"Last Caress," by Steven Thor Gunnin: The story of a group of the few remaining humans holed up in a dormitory while horrors roam the street. Horrifying in a very intellectual way (no gore), literary, touching. I loved it.
"Love & Loss," by Lindsay Maddox: Sara is pregnant with a baby she doesn't want. Lauren and Rick want a baby more than anything, but have little luck in bringing one into the world. Nature may not agree with their plans, but will they find a way to get what they want? This story is heartbreakingly poignant. Maddox knows how to get right to the heart of a parent.
"Healing Scars," by Jo Brielyn: Cassie is a widow and struggling to provide for her 10-year-old son, Mattie. When they meet a new friend in the park, Cassie learns a little something new about the scars Mattie wears. Sweet, touching, sad, and well-told.
"Troy Spencer," by George Kramer: When Troy's mother dies, all he has left is his sister, who has been mean to him his whole life. All their mother wanted before she died was for them to reconcile, but Troy isn't sure he can do that. Anyone who has ever had difficulty getting along with their family will surely see how true this story rings.
"Flood of Tears," by M. Lori Motley: Young Ethan faces trouble at school in the aftermath of a crime his father committed. While the sin was not his, Ethan suffers for it, and his mother must find a way to make life bearable for them. This story is heartbreakingly tragic, but the ending fell flat for me.
"Purgatory," by Steven Thor Gunnin: Blackie has a fantastic story to tell the three youths in the bar, but the most surprising part about it is that he is dead. While he regales his little audience with the stories of the departing souls he's met in the morgue, he has them hanging on his every word, right up to the ending they never expect. Brilliantly told, I found this story very intriguing.
"Summer Heat," by M. Lori Motley: Wayne and Frank have a good thing going, selling stolen car parts for a tidy sum. However, when Frank takes a car he never should have touched, they are in a world of trouble. The imagery in this story is vivid and the suspension is real.
"Love Burns," by Lucinda Gunnin: This is an old fashioned tale: preacher's daughter falls madly in love with a boy and soon finds herself pregnant. She marries her sweetheart, but as is typical in such stories, life does not turn out to be like she hopes it will. This is a well-told story that left me aching for the heroine.
"The Darkest Night," by Susan Sosbe: Alyse knows that the time for her to join her beloved Garrett in the afterlife draws near. As she recalls the tragedy that led to their separation, she is tortured by her memories. A very touching story.
"The Assignment," by Jennifer Walker: My second entry in the anthology is a humorous essay depicting the main character's struggle with writing a story.
"Kleio," by Laurie Darroch-Meekis: Marney loves to shop at the flea market, and one day she finds a truly unexpected treasure in the form of an elaborately jeweled child's toy. She seeks her friend's help in solving the mystery of the toy's origin, and it turns out to be far more than they ever expected. A cute story.
"Fly," by Rissa Watkins: Tom's mother is aging and fading. After the surgery to repair her broken hip, she is confused and frightened, and Tom is starkly aware of the shift from being her charge to being her caretaker. This is possibly my favorite story in the whole book. The emotions and struggles are so real and poignant...I actually cried at the end.