Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
In the forward to this collection of short stories, author Lise Spence-Parsons explains that she wrote each story using writing prompts–randomly drawing two cards with ideas that are combined to make a story, and then using places, people, and events drawn from her own “experiences, dreams, and nightmares” to complete it.
In addition to the method Spence-Parsons used, I was also surprised to learn that she is a relatively new writer, having just taken up the pursuit in the past two years. Prior to that, she had worked as an accountant in the advertising industry.
There is a little bit of something for everyone in this collection, and each story reads quickly and easily, making for a very entertaining read. There are stories about long lost family, the supernatural, and seemingly normal people in modern times that have very strange or surreal things happen to them.
Some will shock, some will tug at your heartstrings, and some will just leave you dumbfounded at the end, as in “I can’t believe that just happened.”
The title of each story doesn’t really give much away, but when you reach the end, it will all make sense. In “Clause 8,” which is one of the most surreal stories in the collection, the title refers to part of a contract signed by the main character, which of course, she did not read. As you make your way to the end of the story, you do get a feeling that it will not end well, but the ending is even more surprising than you might expect.
In “Dead Men Tell No Tales” an independent woman is frustrated by the attempts at a romantic relationship by two very different men who want to marry her; she does not want either one.
One of the most interesting stories, at least for me, was “The Railings” about a curious young man and a mysterious young woman he sees each day in a local church’s cemetery. His interest in history leads him to learn more about the church and the cemetery, and he learns who the woman is and why he is so inexplicably drawn to her.
And, in a ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ twist, “A Natural Remedy” is about a mysterious illness that resembles both the bubonic plague and a flu virus, and an herbalist and doctor’s race to try to find a cure, as they fear it could become a pandemic. In her forward, Spence-Parsons acknowledges that the story is eerily relatable to the current COVID-19 pandemic that the world has been dealing with.
But perhaps one of the most heart-warming stories is “952” about a man receiving mysterious ominous packages and a mystery caller who comes across as a bit sinister. The story seems to be coming to a bad ending, but then takes a very unexpected turn that will tear at your heartstrings… in a good way.
The only negative to this collection for me was that there are quite a few typos and misspellings, as well as incorrect punctuation that could have been easily remedied before the book was printed. However, don’t let that discourage you from checking this one out. The errors are minor and don’t really take away from the impact and effect of the stories.