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Unremembered Histories: Six stories with a supernatural twist Paperback – October 1, 2011
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About the Author
Ed Newman is advertising manager at AMSOIL INC., a leading manufacturer of synthetic motor oils and performance products. He has been a publishing freelance writer and columnist since the early 1980s. Ed Newman was winner of the 1991 Arrowhead Fiction Competition with his short story The Breaking Point. His short stories have been translated into three languages with one produced as a short film that one accolades at the Erie Film Festival. This is his first novel.
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That wish comes true when Thomas Olney is an elderly man captured by a raiding party of Shawnee Indians on the American frontier. In cleverly imagined details and narrative asides, the dramatic moment arrives when Thomas must make his wish—at the instant his son Charles will die a violent death—and, as the title of the story promises, the history of the world changes. We observe how Charles goes to Philadelphia and meets Benjamin Franklin, then collaborates to draft the Declaration of Freedom in 1775 (not the Declaration of Independence of 1776). From that point on, every moment of early United States history that you ever learned in school is altered, discarded, or it simply never happened.
Therein comes the enjoyment. We follow Charles and his descendants as they influence politicians and lead movements resulting in peaceful resolutions of classic conflicts such as the nonviolent emancipation of slaves achieved in 1855 amid the country’s prosperity rather than the bloodshed and strife of civil war. Many similar “alternate versions” follow.
The author’s reimagining of history-as-it-might-have-been against the backdrop of known events that actually took place provides delightful surprises and frequent pleasurable moments for the reader. Ultimately, in the late 1900s, a distant descendant of the Olneys comes upon the precise locale in the woods where Thomas Olney’s wish came true, and two hundred years of unremembered peace, prosperity, progress, and high-minded principles hang in the balance.
All this in under 20 pages!
As for the other five stories in this slim volume, they seemed less developed and not as emotionally satisfying. But, if short stories are your thing, these tales offer an amusing few hours of reimagined history that might have been.
If you care more about the quality of the words than the amount of them, if you value the short-story form, written in a way that entertains, informs, and prompts you to think, then there's a lot to appreciate in this little gem.
When you've read the first story, don't think that the next will be basically the same with slightly different characters and settings, because each is quite unique. Despite the differences, however, there are at least two things these stories have in common: First, as implied in the subtitle, are supernatural twists. The other is what I am coming to expect from an Ed Newman story: rich detail, both cultural and historical (as appropriate).
To help set precise expectations regarding length, here's the number of pages as displayed in my Windows Phone 7 Kindle reader with the default font (the number of pages varies with the reader and font size):
Preface (3 pages)
1. Two Acts That Changed the World (15 pages)
2. The Empty Space (18 pages)
3. Duel of the Poets (13 pages)
4. Lu Lee & the Magic Cat (12 pages)
Unrecorded Histories Introduction (8 pages)
5. An Unremembered History of the World (40 pages)
6. The Nonsense Room (28 pages)
That's right, there's an introduction in the middle of the book. It's an introduction specifically to the 5th story which follows it. Why organize the stories this way? I'll leave that for you to figure out.
The Nonsense Room, similarly, centers on a secluded spot in the protaganist's house that contains an endless and living communique upon the walls from the supernatural. What, exactly, is being said is impossible to decipher, and it drives the main character to abandon his wife for the cozy confines of his mistress, the Nonsense Room, presumable hoping to discover the secret. Her husband caught in a trance an oblivious to her, his wife acts rashingly and does something one only hopes she regrets.
It seems clear Newman is wrestling with the existential angst of finding one's place in the world, in society, and developing meaningful relationships with others, the gods, God, etc. These are fine stories that appeal to anyone who's struggled to find peace.
The remaining stories provide a nice appetizer. "Two Acts that Changed the World" may leave you questioning history, as it did me. "Duel of the Poets" contains a surprise ending that challenges our ideas concerning art and how it affects reality.