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4.0 out of 5 starsFaithful, Pleaser, Forced
Reviewed in the United States on September 23, 2017
A couple of good nuggets in this one. The Namesake Short, namely the Dead Husband Project was indeed a wicked little tale, faithful to its absurd aspirations. A Road in the Rain explores power relationships between boss and employee, the road to rape, and the road from it. Mommy blogger is a what-if tale shouted out, blogged out to no one and everyone as new mom battles near-despair, mother-in-law and almost-there husband. There is even a pleaser for the tech-minded, The Date, which I cannot even begin to describe without spoiling it, beyond saying it is a take on the Turing Test. However, some of the stories were either beyond my understanding even after multiple reads or seemed a little pointless: Ozk was a little forced and lacked in credibility despite mighty efforts, and Postcards tried to avoid the white (wo)man's burden in Africa but went nowhere beyond a flight from tragedy. Overall, though, there are plenty of good stories here; the reader may have to put in some work, but it generally is well worth it.
The first two stories are perfect examples of the O. Henry short story that I learned to love in high school many years ago. They draw you down this path ... then Wham! the trap snaps shut on the last page ... completely unanticipated. You laugh out loud and are amazed at the author's cleverness and ability.
The rest of the stories don't live up to this standard - although they all contain some hidden secret that gradually emerges, just not with punch of the first two. Also, from my west-coast world perspective where only 10% of people smoke, I got rather tired of all the smoking cliches by the end of the book. They made the characters all feel like they emerged from some misty 1960's past when I used to hang out on Spadina Avenue