Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
Don’t let the title of this collection of short stories by Jordan Harper fool you. This is NOT a collection of sappy love stories populated by characters wallowing in self-pity or feeling like a victim because they’ve been done wrong in love and romance.
Rather, this book is a gritty, raw and heart-breakingly stark look at the human condition, a surprisingly insightful look at those living on the fringes of society — with one thing in common: in each of these stories, the main characters are impacted by love in their own way, or, at the very least, some shred of humanity that has survived within them despite their desperate life circumstances.
In Agua Dulce a drug dealer finds himself making a potentially self-sacrificing decision in order to save the life of his son, whom up until that moment, the reader doesn’t even know he has any feelings for — parental or otherwise.
In Lucy In the Pit, the main character is driven by love for the fighting dog for which he trains and cares for — and must decide whether to help one of his favorite charges live, or help it die a dignified, painless death as opposed to one in the pit, fighting its way to its death.
In Beautiful Trash, the reader is introduced to two Hollywood fixers and how their chosen profession brings them together and then brings them each to a surprising turn of events that ends in one of them committing a surprising act of vengeance.
And in a devious twist — many of these stories end ambiguously — leaving the reader forced to determine for themselves how the story truly ended. When you come to the last sentence, there are still unanswered questions and a feeling that surely, there has to be something more — another sentence, paragraph, or page. Except, there isn’t.
This is a book that will take most people out of their comfort zones and get them thinking about situations and circumstances they probably couldn’t, or wouldn’t, know otherwise and somehow, brings a certain common empathy for these characters — even the unsavory ones — that will surprise you.