4 out of 4 stars
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Holding Fire: Short Stories of Self-Destruction (2015) is a 288-page collection of short stories whose theme is the self-destructiveness of vengeance and hate. Each of the book's ten stories is from a different author.
This anthology has earned 4 out of 4 stars. All these stories are compelling, and propel you swiftly from the beginning to the end. The plots are straightforward, but the tales are not simplistic. The authors have a well-founded confidence in their ability to relate interesting stories without resorting to unnecessary complications. Many of the tales include a substantial amount of introspective analysis of a character's thoughts, fears, motivations, etc. This allows a simple storyline to be the basis for an intriguing tale.
Holding Fire should appeal to a wide variety of readers; many of the stories feature individuals similar to people you know personally. The main characters typically are ordinary people who fall prey to their emotions, make a bad decision, and suffer the consequences. A girl despises her ex-boyfriend. A corporate manager steps over people to claw her way upwards. A teenage girl gets impregnated by a despicable charmer. A teenage boy's younger sister gets raped at a party. A boy bullied in high school seeks revenge, many years later. A woman's romantic advances are spurned. A writer is obsessed with becoming famous. A boy is beaten by his alcoholic father.
In addition to the main theme of the book, the authors examine a wide variety of other interesting issues: grief, trust, greed, suicide, forgiveness, lost faith, rape stigma, mental illness, child abuse, false accusations, personal responsibility, unwanted children, corporate espionage, murder versus justifiable homicide, justice versus revenge, and crimes of passion versus premeditated murder.
The subject matter of some of the stories could easily lead to gruesome descriptions, but the authors refrain from sensationalistic prose. Profanities are scarce, but they make the book unsuitable for some young readers. Grammatical errors typically are infrequent and minor; one tale, however, is in dire need of more editing.
The clearly defined theme of the book may lead you to expect predictable, formulaic stories. However, the authors possess substantial creativity, so there are no humdrum tales in this anthology. The stories generally feature a character whose unbridled hatred leads to his or her downfall, but there are plenty of twists and turns, so you can't easily foresee the endings. For example, one man meticulously plots his revenge, but eventually has a change of heart. Short stories sometimes leave you wondering what the point was, if any. That doesn't happen in this book.
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