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A Baker’s Dozen of Great Stories

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Quintet: Five Tales With a Twist by Jennifer Young5et

If there is a common thread linking these five stories it is that each involves a central character unable to let go of the past.

The Homecoming sees a young man returning to the family home a few years after the end of World War One. A touching exploration of guilt, cowardice and sibling rivalry in a wealthy Scottish family.

Pandora’s Box features a woman who is afraid to move on from a failed relationship – until she is reminded that what was left when Pandora opened her mythical box.

In what is probably the best story in this collection, Emily Garlock’s Nightmare, a psychiatrist is unable to deal with the guilt he feels at having taken advantage of a patient.

In Burns Night, a jilted bride contemplates what might have been if her suitor had not failed to turn up to the wedding. Told with just the right amount of humour and pathos, this is a compelling portrait of a lonely woman.

Maps and Legends brings us bang up to date with a story about a soldier whose love of maps leads him into dangerous territory in Afghanistan. It’s his grandfather who can’t forget sharing that love of maps, and what they reveal, when the soldier was a boy.

I can’t help wondering if Young was a geographer in an earlier life; maps play an important role in her recent novel ‘Looking for Charlotte‘.

 

8SEight Stories by John Erwin

The author tells us in a brief introductory note that the stories in this collection were written over the past thirty years. They are presented in reverse chronological order so Reflections in a Plate Glass Window was written most recently. It is a moving exposition of the pain felt by children in the face of the deterioration of a parent stricken by dmentia.

In Skeet’s Revenge a ruthless property developer gets his come-uppance at the hands of – well, if I told you it would spoil the story. Suffice to say that this is a detective tale with a blood curdling twist.

Raging Against the Machine is set in a dystopian New York where traffic cameras are only part of the apparatus established in an attempt to control the citizens. How might such surveillance machinery be frustrated by a determined rebel? John Erwin offers an answer.

The Snow in Cheyenne is a touching Christmas story in which two lonely strangers, wary of each other at first, discover solace over a simple meal.

Seeds of Insurrection is another dystopian tale. It envisages a world ruled by an extremist cult. Set in the ruins of a baseball field and taking place over a year it is an attempt to equate love of sport with love of humanity.

In A Change of Season a pair of young lovers separate for the summer. He pursues his dream of a life on the road, she hers as a trainee lawyer. Will they be reunited at the end of the summer as he believes? I’ll not spoil the story by answering that question.

Mutant Trappers takes us back to dystopia. Set in a post nuclear holocaust world it tells of a young man who escaped the regulation culling of babies with deformities and his encounter with his brother.

After the Flood exposes man’s inability to control the forces of nature. Written long before hurricane Katrina, it is set in the Mississippi delta in the 1930s when the repairs and improvements to the levees following a 1927 inundation have proved inadequate to the task. As I write this, something very similar is happening in Carlisle.

John Erwin writes about the people and places of North America with a sympathy that draws the reader into their lives and illuminates some of the things that puzzle us Europeans about American culture.

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