3 out of 4 stars
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I like to think about life as a succession of short stories where we get to be the main character. Sadly, not all of them have a happy ending, and sometimes, they look more like a horror story than a fairytale. I dare to say that the Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 displays that beautifully.
In the book, we get to enjoy 33 short stories, two graphic novels, and a novella written by William H. Coles. All of them creating a collection of slice-of-life scenes. I admit the narrative and the descriptions were on point. Reading it made me feel like peeking through someone's window. And just like it should happen when someone falls into the temptation of eavesdropping, I discovered things I could have lived without knowing.
If I had to pick just one, "Suchin's Escape" was my favorite one. It is not the most pleasant of the stories, but there was something about the honesty of the story, that made me feel like finding a diamond in a mud-pool. It did a good job reminding me that kindness and compassion can be found even in the most violent places.
The book is far from being perfect, though. Some of the stories gave me an incomplete vibe. Not the typical open ending, leaving something for the reader to think about, but an abrupt closure. It was like finding out the last page is missing, and never getting to know how it ends. The illustrations were on point, but I would have liked to see more of them. Especially in the short stories, they were more an individual cover than actual illustrations for the story.
As for the editorial work, it could be improved. The errors I found were not bad enough to distract me from reading, but they were somewhat constant, and it wouldn't be fair if I ignored them. That's why I'll rate the book three out of four stars.
I recommend this book for readers that enjoy raw reality. Flawed characters, with human emotions, far from perfection like the rest of us. However, there's an endless list of triggers worth mentioning before picking up the book. In the stories, I found pregnancy at a young age, abortion, single parenthood, views on premarital sex, congenital issues in babies, taboo relationships, kidnapping, violent and explicit sexual descriptions, death, medical negligence, prostitution, sexism, extreme poverty, and terminal illness. And I'm just talking about the ones on top of my head. Those stories are not meant to be for minors or sensitive people. I also found a biblical verse in one of the stories. If using the Bible for that kind of story bothers you, it would be a good idea to skip the book.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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