Short stories with dark hope
I read a lot of novels. Almost all fiction. I don’t think reading John Brandon’s short story collection, Further Joy, can really be considered spreading my wings but it was certainly a change of pace. Most of my short story reading is done when I’m waiting for a new book at the library and I pick them out of my “best of” anthologies. Reading Brandon’s collection cover to cover without interruption was a enjoyable, new experience! If you love reading but novel after novel is starting to feel stale, pick up a book of short stories!
Brandon doesn’t try to fool you. He lays out the characters intentions from the start; he does not cover up their past or paint a perfect picture of the future. He introduces his reader to a solid character, giving all necessary information, and then walks through a period of transition in their lives and leaves the ending up to the reader.
Brandon’s mix of action vs. description sets an example every writer should study. He mixes a single descriptive sentence in a paragraph of action (and vice versa) to great effect.
Individual Stories from Further Joy:
By far my favorite story in the collection! The Picnickers follows a middle-aged woman and her friend’s teenage son as they spend a day together. The story explores the constraints of adulthood as they are directly compared to the freedom of youth. The unlikely characters find out that through their many differences, shared emotions overcome everything else.
The Differing Views
A guaranteed eyebrow-raiser, The Differing Views is a new look at a character study. Beginning in despair, the main character slowly takes control of his life once seven living brains appear in his spare bedroom. There’s not a lot of action, but this story will surely stick with me.
A great story of a man who is on the edge of disaster and continues to lean over the edge when he should be back peddling. The first story in the collection, The Favorite sets a reliable mood for the rest of the collection.
This title story stands out. With no main character, no named characters, and no clear plot line, Further Joy explores the complicated relationships of fathers and daughters. The story contains secrets, daydreams, desires, hopefulness, and uncertainty.
True to the title, most of the stories in Further Joy end at a moment of hopefulness with bliss peaking over the horizon. I enjoy the open endings. I enjoy the concise writing and I enjoy the attraction of the main characters to oddball outsiders. 4 star review!