Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ugly to Start With - John Michael Cummings

This was my first-ever commissioned review, and I am happy to say that I can highly recommend this book, a collection of short stories. As I've said, I'm not usually a fan of short story collections, because as a reader I usually want to spend more time with the characters. This book solved that problem neatly by sharing the same narrator and characters, so the overall effect was of an impressionistic novel. Of the stories, my favorites were the eponymous "Ugly to Start With," which I found to be a heartbreaking depiction of disappointment and broken dreams, and "The Scratchboard Project," which beautifully illustrated the inner lives of two characters in describing their behavior. The title of the latter story also perfectly describes what happens during the story (I don't want to elaborate in case of spoilers). The narrator was sympathetic, and I think the author skillfully lets us in on his motivations and feelings so that we can understand why he does what he does, even if it sometimes doesn't appear to make sense to others. I will definitely seek out the other writings of this author. Highly recommended.

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