About The Thing About Great White Sharks and Other Stories by Rebecca Adams Wright: In this collection’s richly imagined title story, our brutal and resourceful protagonist is determined to protect her family from a murderous, shark-ridden world—at any cost. Elsewhere, an old woman uncovers a sinister plot while looking after a friend’s plants (“Orchids”), and a girl in the war-torn countryside befriends an unlikely creature (“Keeper of the Glass”). In “Barnstormers,” a futuristic flying circus tries to forestall bankruptcy with one last memorable show. At the heart of “Sheila” is the terrible choice a retired judge must make when faced with the destruction of his beloved robotic dog, and “Yuri, in a Blue Dress” follows one of the last survivors of an alien invasion as she seeks help.
Extending from World War II to the far future, these fifteen stories offer a gorgeously observed perspective on our desire for connection and what it means to have compassion—for ourselves, for one another, for our past…and for whatever lies beyond.
My two centsMost readers of this blog will know that I had a great short story year in 2014. With this collection, I think the streak continues! What a strange trip this was! Going through the first short story "Sheila," I knew that this collection was going to put me on edge ... who talks about tender feelings towards a robotic dog? And why did I just buy into it?
"Sheila" sets the stage for this wonderful bundle of 15 short stories that reimagine the future, revisit the past... and delve into the human psyche.
Sprinkle these short stories with a dusting of magic, a brilliant sci-fi twist, a touch of the surreal ... and each story will keep you guessing at the turn of each page. Despite (or maybe because) these are set in past or the future, human beings fundamentally haven't changed much in several hundred years. Loss, isolation, loneliness, pain and survival, there's more to the human experience that what is obvious.
A quick look at the 15 stories with some initial impressions:
Some stories about beloved pets - the joy of having them and the pain of losing them, guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings of pet owners.
Sheila is a sad story about a man faced with the difficult decision to give up his robotic dog (named Sheila) of 25 years, considered as part of his family as Sheila was bought to ease the pain of his dying wife. Tiger Bright is about the experience of a couple who inherited a tiger from their Aunt Gertrude, and the wonders and the scares of taking care of such a magnificent animal. The White Chalk Road rounds up the collection, making its way back to the present time. It once again hones in on the pain and loss of a dying pet.
There are quite a few stories set in the future, foremost of which is The Thing About Great White Sharks. I loved loved LOVED this. Wow. I am rendered speechless -- except maybe to say: I want more of it! (I decided I wouldn't spoil the experience for you; just go read the synopsis at the beginning if you want a gist.)
And a few more ...
What to Expect When You're Expecting an Alien Parasite is a play on the popular What to Expect When series ... minus the baby and plus an alien parasite that takes over your body. Cleverly written just like the books, step by horrific step.
Barnstormers is about a futuristic flying circus putting on their last show. This is probably the one story that didn't really interest me (I am going to re-read this when I get a chance).
Yuri, in a Blue Dress is the story of one of the remaining survivors of an alien invasion. And she needs help.
And the remainder ...
Orchids is a quick little dark whodunit that satisfied the Agatha Christie lover in me, with a paranormal twist!
Melville Loves Hawthorne is a love story of sorts between two stage actors ... can you guess who?
The Other Husband is a metaphorical take on a common household annoyance.
The Space We Share is about the death of a schoolmate and the ensuing strangeness as his friends cope with their loss.
Poland, 1952 recounts the encounter of scared young Polish girl with a soldier off duty. Is he the enemy?
Keeper of the Glass is about a girl, whose family is tasked with protecting priceless glass windows in a war-stricken countryside. She befriends a strange creature who becomes the "keeper of the glass."
Storybag is whimsical and sweet ... and a little creepy.
Aleph Bat is a short story for wild animal researchers and language lovers. (It reminds me too much of Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn so it didn't make too much of an impression on me.)
Uh-ohWhile I recognize that this is supposed to be all odd, what struck me is that this collection doesn't quite feel like a "collection." I can see a thread of commonality in the strangeness of it all, but the breadth and scope made it feel hodgepodge-y. I am not complaining though, I think it is totally part of its charm.
As you can also see, I loved some, I merely liked some, and even sort of glossed over one because it didn't really appeal to me. It's a mixed bag for me, but overall a good mixed bag.
Verdict: A very special short story collection! With the variety of short stories, the long time span (to eternity and beyond!), and the brilliant melding of the surreal and magical with the human experience, I am willing to bet at least one will grab you. I highly recommend me this if you need a change of pace, are stuck in a reading rut, or simply want to try something totally different. Get ready!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in order to participate in this tour with an honest review. Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour here.