5 out of 5 stars
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"If" is a thriller about abduction that features an unexpected twist. Anna moves to Israel with her family, where the Angel of Death kidnaps her and her baby, believing she has the right genes. He plans to take the infant and make his wife happy.
The other stories are equally captivating.
"A Tear for Mrs Job" explores security challenges in a war-torn region and draws parallels between people's faith in divine protection and the military. A woman clutching a prayer book tells her seatmate about her family, parenting, and faith, frequently referencing Job's story in the Bible during a bus ride.
"The Shadow and the Substance" follows Paula and her family as they move due to her husband's work in nuclear technology. As John's contract expires, they must decide whether to stay in Israel. Paula dreams of returning to her homeland, but when John takes her to his workplace, she realizes it's the source of her nightmares.
"Dragons and Evil Spirits" explores the expectations placed on women and how they often struggle with self-worth. Nura is a widow who remarries and makes random phone calls to escape her current husband.
"Happily Ever After" examines the effects of poverty on individuals and families. Jack and Jill, a married couple hoping for a happy ending, struggle financially due to the recession. They have three children and a mortgage, leading to financial and housekeeping disputes. Jill and her children learn to swear, and while narrating fairy tales, she conveys a more critical tone.
"A Brave New World" tells a post-apocalyptic story about gender equality. Mack and his brother create a colony where women have dominion. Power imbalances give female children a better chance of survival.
The book If... and other stories is a collection of six short stories about women. Four of the stories take place in the Middle East; one is during an economic crisis, and the final story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. These stories show Claire Frieze's versatility in writing, focusing on socially relevant topics.
The book is easy to read, with under 120 pages. There is no particular order to read the stories, but the selection and organization of the content are thoughtful. The first five stories aim to raise awareness and encourage empowerment. The final story delves into the consequences of ultimate control and power, emphasizing that empowerment is about balance and collaboration rather than reversing roles or keeping the dominant gender.
"If" is notable for its unexpected twist, making it an excellent opening story that draws readers in to discover the rest of the collection. "Happily Ever After" is my favorite story, with allusions to fairy tales and nursery rhymes and its thought-provoking insights about their meaning and purpose.
The focus on women's concerns when moving to a foreign country is also noteworthy. It shows how wives, mothers, and homemakers perceive a foreign country's culture, religion, and security. The thorough exploration of these topics unifies the selections. The women featured in the story are often wives or mothers who remain home with their children and support their families as expatriate spouses. It would be beneficial to include stories of single women adjusting to a different country to add depth to the collection and highlight how different female personalities respond to a new environment.
The language and vocabulary used in the book are simple and contribute to a seamless reading experience. The book has swear words, and while there are references to sex, they are not graphic. However, there are mentions of abuse, torture, and violence. The content is appropriate for audiences aged 16 and older, and religious organizations will not find it objectionable. The book is for those interested in socially relevant short stories about women. Expatriates in Middle Eastern and Arab countries will find it relatable.
The book is brief. But it provides thought-provoking insights and variety while maintaining coherence. I have nothing negative to say about the book. The editing was clean, with just a few errors. I would give it five out of five.
If... and other stories
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