2 out of 4 stars
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Author Silvano Bistazzoni has compiled a collection of four short stories into his book, The Locked Self and Other Stories. In contradiction to the Non-Fiction classification listed when I selected the book to review, it is entirely a work of fiction. The book runs just over 200 PDF pages in length, with the opening story comprising approximately three quarters of that. The Locked Self takes place in the office of a counseling psychologist who has set to work trying to help a nine-year-old boy, Jo, whose tumultuous home life is causing him to retreat within himself. As the doctor whittles away at Jo's defensive walls, he reminisces about the ups and downs of his own childhood.
The second short in the book is called The Round Trip Home. It depicts a young sailor unwilling to conform to the expectations of his old-fashioned small town. He does things his own way, assuming he has nothing but time, but as we soon discover, life rarely works out the way we plan, often leaving the hints of regret as we look back on our life. In All Systems Go, a married couple has settled into a cantankerous relationship, putting their respective energies into relationships outside their marriage. Samantha Rice has had enough of her husband's cheating and unloving ways, and develops a fondness for a much younger bank teller. Just when it seems Sam will get her happy ending after all, we see that her new love has been keeping secrets of his own. The book concludes with Island, A Family, in which a simple Italian restaurant owner, Mario, is still reeling from the sudden departure of his wife to another man, as well as his strained relationships with his children. When an unexpected reunion comes on the heels of a traumatic event, we see that blood is thicker than water, and Mario will do anything for those he loves.
The first story left a lot to be desired. From the lead character (the psychologist) not having a name, to the lack of physical character descriptions and underwhelming plot progression, I had difficulty connecting with the events of the story. I noticed a primary character's name transitioned from “Allison” to “Alison,” and even after her identity was clearly established at the beginning, the author continued to remind us that she was “Alison, Jo's mother.” The remaining three shorts did little to pull me up from my disinterest with their hasty narratives and unimaginative dialogues. These issues, coupled with telling-rather-than-showing imagery and plentiful grammatical errors, had me constantly longing for more than this book offered.
The book did have some positive points that should not go unmentioned. I think the author has the creativity to devise an attention-grabbing premise across multiple genres, and I believe this book was intended to showcase that diversity. There is nothing lacking in the author's ability to portray his intentions for the plot and to craft a believable storyline. It is my opinion that the author would be well-served to expand the primary story, focusing on character development and a more streamlined narrative. With three of the four stories constituting only a quarter of the reading material, their presence is not necessary or aiding. Alternatively, the author could shorten the first story and lengthen the others, giving a more well-rounded representation of the shorts.
Due to the prevalence of grammatical errors and considering the degree to which I found the presentation and character development to be lacking, I have rated this book 2 out of 4 stars. With some adjustments, I feel this book has the potential to appeal to readers that enjoy a short story collection of varying themes and styles.
The Locked Self and Other Stories
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