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Brilliant & Magical Brain Candy--a Stunning Collection,
This review is from: What happened to Jory and other dark departures (Kindle Edition)
Gary Henry's literary craftsmanship is stunning in this collection. As I was reading his widely divergent stories, ranging from the modern-day "advice column" of a bloodthirsty 15th-century Wallachian ruler to the creepy & supernatural experience of two backwoods moonshiners from the Ozarks, I was truly struck by his near virtuoso command of dialogue, characterization, atmoshphere, backstory, and pace (Hemingway, eat your heart out). Never before have I seen a writer cast his net so broadly across culture, time, and place and yet so perfectly inhabit his characters' souls and points of view along with the idiosyncracies of their dialect. I'm almost tempted to accuse the author of compiling stories stolen from other writers--how could one individual have written all of these? But after reading the entire collection, the common thread that proved to me that they all come from the same pen was this: Empathy.
Gary Henry loves these people.
This is not the tired and well-worn rut of a cynical, modern literary poser who only exists to show off his chops. What ties these stories together is
the tenderness with which the author treats each character's hopes and dreams and fears--as though he feels their emotions right along with them and regards their vulnerability as something precious--something that is perhaps the crux of being human. And to shine a light on that glimmer of humanity, Henry often delves into the fantastical realm of magical realism (imagine a Pushcart Prize winning short story meeting The Twilight Zone). By bringing his characters up against surreal circumstances, Henry forces us to see the inner workings of their minds and hearts in a manner that is as enlightening as it is oddly realistic. Yet despite his facile ability to navigate the very strange and supernatural (such as the brilliant story "Roth's Machine" that echoes the spiritual insight of Mary Shelley), my very favorite story in this collection is a piece of pure, gritty realism titled "The Good, The Bad, And The Hairy" that is reminiscent of Fight Club in its crushing brutality juxtaposed with courage.
But regardless of a reader's favorite genre, what you will come away with after spending time with Henry's stories is a new respect for what is the most fragile yet perhaps the most enduring quality in us all: our capacity for love and hope. Gary Henry is most definitely a writer to watch.