4 out of 4 stars
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Retreat is a collection of fourteen fictional short stories. The author, Ashok Patwari, is a pediatrician and public health researcher. His profession and travels have allowed him to create stories that take place on many different continents and feature characters with different cultures and ethnicities. The subjects of the stories differ widely, but they all have a beautiful lesson to be learned. In his author’s note to the reader, Patwari says he is not sure who the target audience for the book should be. After reading the book, I have some thoughts on this I’ll share later. I’ve never read a book that is a collection of short stories before, but I enjoyed this one quite thoroughly.
As I look back over the titles of the stories, I realize I cannot pick just one favorite. Patwari has a gift for telling stories, and I’m so glad he shared them with us. Curse of the White Witch is definitely one of my favorite stories in this book. Peter and Sarah are vacationing in Jamaica. After arriving, Sarah stays at the hotel to rest because she has a migraine, and Peter goes on a guided tour of Montego Bay. After the tour, Peter makes a strange request to the tour guide, Joe. He asks him to follow him and his wife because he thinks his wife is trying to kill him. I love this story because the ending is quite surprising, and it’s always interesting to see how money can mess with your morals.
Another story I really liked was Bridges, Not Barriers. This story starts with Umaru, who is a student at a school in Argungu, Nigeria. He wakes one morning to find that he has started to urinate blood. Normally you might tell your parents if something like this were to happen, but Umaru’s parents are hundreds of miles away in Zaria. Umaru is skeptical of the male nurse, Madimbo, but decides to tell him his problem. He is pleasantly impressed with Madimbo when he solves his problem and helps to educate the rest of the school. In the future, the two meet again and this time Umaru is able to help Madimbo. I liked this story because it was enjoyable to see the two meet again. It was also interesting to read about the religious conflict that Madimbo later deals with.
I can’t really say that I disliked any of the stories. I didn’t find a single error, which made for a pleasant reading experience. Mom, You Don’t Lie was a good story, but I was caught off guard by the ending. I felt it was a little incomplete, which was even more disappointing because it was the last story in the book.
I give Retreat a 4 out of 4 rating. I found the stories so diverse and meaningful. There were lessons of forgiveness, repairing relationships, and taking time to learn about others and their situation. What timely messages for us in 2020. I think anyone could enjoy this book, but I think readers in the medical profession or who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks in America would connect deeper with these stories. I think young adult and adult readers could both benefit from this book because there was no inappropriate language or sexual content.
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