- File Size: 784 KB
- Print Length: 59 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Greyhound Press (April 10, 2016)
- Publication Date: April 10, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1524204218
- ISBN-13: 978-1524204211
- ASIN: B01E46BNWO
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,884,331 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Four American Tales Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
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This is a fine collection of short stories. The third one about a young man who goes to work in the sex industry was like nothing I’ve read before, leaving me a tad uncomfortable. “A Hundred Ways to Live” features a woman picking up her boyfriend when he gets out of prison, hoping a wad of cash is still waiting for them from his last big heist.
But one thing all four stories have in common is that they’re about people trying to deal with failures.
I had a great deal of sympathy with little Sweet Pea in the first story – “Wichega” – about a dirt-poor family struggling to survive as Sweet Pea’s father, just out of prison, seems bound and determined to repeat his past mistakes. But I connected most with Helen in the last story, “Uncle Mort.” She feels guilty and vulnerable after her old uncle dies – guilty that she didn’t visit him and vulnerable because his death seems to represent the death we all face.
Messenger's writing is equally powerful and emotive in the other stories. The characters are developed richly, each having their own distinct voice and mannerisms that portray far more than what is told of them in the stories themselves.
These stories, and the characters in them, are varied enough to keep the reader engaged and curious throughout the book. There is neither cliche nor repetition in the plots, characters and imagery delivered by Messenger.
These stories are, without doubt, American in both style and setting, at different times reminding me of the imagery and eloquence of John Steinbeck.
This is the first of his books that I have read, but I definitely hope to read more of his writing. I enjoyed Four American Tales very much.
“Wichega” is the reminiscence of a woman past 60. She recounts the last days when she and her mama, daddy, and little sister, May Alice, were together as a family. The narrator and May Alice are warned about the Wichega (a Wichega is something frightening that lurks unseen at the bottom of the pond across the highway from their house waiting to snare unsuspecting (and disobedient) children and drag them to the bottom). Of the four stories, “Wichega” was my favorite (I read it twice). I loved the language; one passage in particular: “Seemed like that summer the air was full up with heat and bugs and things blown about. All I had to do was hold out my fingers and catch life on the wing.”
“A Hundred Ways to Live” is the story of Nadine and Earl coming together again at the end of Earl’s stint in prison for being an accessory to armed robbery. We watch them tentatively testing their relationship after the long separation and heading toward a future that may or may not be the path to the life they’ve been counting on.
In “Ballbusters on Parade,” a young man drops out of college and takes a detour from the “conventional” future his family had in mind for him to go into the adult entertainment industry where he builds a lucrative (and somewhat perverse) career for himself – but at what personal cost?
In “Uncle Mort,” a woman gets a surprise bequest from an elderly uncle she hasn’t seen in years, and in claiming it, comes to a new understanding about herself, her past and her future.
Jack Messenger writes serious fiction. All four stories in the collection are original and engaging.
Featuring mainly strong female characters who face challenges that could change their lives, this is a fascinating collection that demonstrates a talent for language and character. The ‘voices’ in each story are very different, which often signifies a highly talented writer. In this case, the author shows he can write intelligently and inventively in a variety of styles while still keeping his audience engrossed.
It’s always nice to jump on the literary train at the start, and I’ll be looking forward to Jack Messenger’s next book with relish.