2 out of 4 stars
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Running in Plain Sight & Other Stories is a compilation of historical and contemporary fiction. In it, author Charles R. Butts Jr. brings four short stories about life, love, tragedy, and pivotal lessons learned by four different men.
In the title story, Running in Plain Sight, a ten-year-old boy, Leander, is forced to escape from his hometown when his parents are murdered. From that point, he constantly lives life on the run. In If All Minds are Clear, an up-and-coming minister, Brantley, is on his way to becoming the next pastor of his church. Yet, his sordid conduct behind closed doors could cost him the ministry. In Home, a man named P. Randall Spires could finally see healing come to his fractured family, but the trauma of his past still haunts him. In the last story, A Balanced Imbalance, Zachary is a depressed man with bipolar disorder. He’s faced with the choice of giving life another try or giving in to the lure of suicide.
The tough situations and realistically flawed characters make these stories engaging to read. The author doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat the reality the characters face. Still, a spirit of hope eventually makes its way through each account. While the writing style is fairly simplistic, the thoughtful and down-to-earth messages in this book can be accessible to many readers.
One challenge with writing multiple stories is giving the characters distinct voices, particularly the protagonists. Each story in this compilation is narrated in first person, which is fine, but not all of the protagonists sound too distinct from each other. It’s as if the same character could be narrating more than one of the stories. There’s also some awkward pacing and plot development, and the last two stories feel rushed. After a certain point in those two stories, the protagonists seem to be in a hurry to wrap things up. Consequently, the ending emotions come off as rather trite summaries instead of developing more subtly or naturally through the plot and characters.
However, my main concern with this book is its number of errors and inconsistencies. There’s missing punctuation, capitalization errors, and numerous sentences with comma splices. In the first story, the historical timeline doesn’t match the progression of Leander’s age. Hence, the Great Depression begins and ends a couple of decades too early.
Also, throughout the book, there’s frequent verb tense confusion. The protagonists often slip into narrating past events in present tense. In the first story especially, it becomes unclear if the protagonist is giving an account of what already happened, entirely in the past, or if he’s right there during the story’s middle years, telling the reader about them as they happen. Thorough editing would address these issues and give the book more polish and needed clarity.
Overall, this compilation has entertaining accounts with encouraging messages, but its presentation could be much improved. Therefore, I give Running in Plain Sight & Other Stories a rating of 2 out of 4 stars. While it may satisfy some fans of short fiction as it is, I’d recommend that the book be edited to appeal to a wider range of readers.
Running In Plain Sight & Other Stories
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