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IMMORTALITY (and other short stories): meditations on the beauty of this finite life Paperback – March 20, 2013
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About the Author
Josh Barkey was raised from diapers to diploma in the Amazon Basin of Peru, South America, then paid for an English degree by sticking hundreds of thousands of baby trees into Canadian dirt. Now he lives in an ivy-encrusted shed in North Carolina, arranging words and making art. He can be found online at www.joshbarkey.com
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Josh Barkey's IMMORTALITY (AND OTHER SHORT STORIES) is a fascinating collection of twenty-two tales that manage to cover a wide array of topics and geographic locations, and his characters are memorable in their own right. In these tales we meet Jono as he confronts a horsefly in a most surprising way. We encounter a very profane parrot with one particular repeated word, along with its owner. There's Thurman Bellweather, a grizzled man of fifty-nine, who goes through a surprising metamorphosis of sorts on a September morning. We meet Kurt, the fierce tiger hunter at the age of ten, and then there's Paddington, propped on a corner shelf, in his second life when most bears only got one.
Author Barkey's characters come to life with his descriptions, and the title story 'Immortality' is a good sendoff to this collection, right from the beginning. In 'Fear: a Love Story' we encounter Madeleine Beauregard, a confident woman from outward appearances, but with her own inner fears. It's the way that the author puts together descriptions that bring the reader back to read certain passages over and again, as can be seen here:
"Madeleine was thirty-one, and possessed of librarian good looks and a breezy savoir-faire that could easily drive a man to distraction... and often did. She wouldn't exactly be called a raving beauty--not exactly--but there was a voluptuous, organic wildness about her that spoke the kind of promises that men find irresistible. As a result, there were many men who pursued her, and Madeleine fell quickly into and out of love."
The story with Samuel Lawrence and his taxi tide is another excellent example:
"Samuel was used to the sharp, blowing wind in the hills around his snug, North Carolina home. But here, somehow, in the narrowed steel-and-glass canyons of New York City--in the crush and press and frenetic pace of all these human stories--the wind took on a more frantic, insistent tone. It had a scent jarringly discordant to that of his home, and seemed to him imbued with an animal desperation, lifted and carried from the charging lives of the people bustling all around."
There's more to this tale of love in a taxi, but without leaving any spoilers, as the author stated through one of the characters: "This was theater. Everyday, New York theater."
IMMORTALITY is one of those books that, at 195 pages, left this reader wishing that there were more. Had first encountered Josh Barkey, a gifted author, budding screenplay writer, and artist, on his blog, which he describes as "a journey in words and pictures... one magic lie at a time." But in this book, there is both rhyme and reason to the way the way that he has organized the stories found on these pages. It should also be noted that the author illustrated the book cover, and as you read it, you'll understand better its clever meaning.
This debut book, in twenty-two short stories, is highly recommended.
I rate it a solid 4 out of 5, not for any particular shortcoming but considering all elements together.
I re-read numerous stories, laughing and crying repeatedly. When Josh Barkey's characters are hurting, the reader relates to their pain - my chest tightened up and I had to fight back tears as I was reading a few stories in a public place. Later, when reading them again at home, I laughed, howled, and cried unabashedly.
I hope that this is not the last that we hear from Barkey and am looking forward to his next collection of short stories, novel, or screenplay (film details can be seen here:
I thank Josh for sharing his experiences and creativity; I have bought this book for a friend and am certain that I'll buy a few more to place under the Christmas tree!
Each story is rich in description and evocative in emotions, transporting to you a different place with every tale. Where there are definite and strong themes that run though out this author's work, the subject matter is varied enough to keep one guessing about where the next short will be set and what will happen.
There are also quite a few twists of plot line, which wouldn't make much of a difference except that in such a short time, you've somehow become invested in these characters and truly care about these turns in the story line. This is simply a testament to the talent of the author, who is able to bring the reader to a place of caring deeply about characters that you've only known for such a short time.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a series of short stories that will not only entertain, but will evoke truly emotional responses for these short lived story lines.
I was surprised, though I had long been a reader of Josh's, by the clarity of his voice and by how strongly wrapped up I could be in a story only a few pages long - again and again. Thanks for sharing these stories with us Josh, I am looking forward to enjoying your next offering.