Short Fiction of William H Coles Book Review


The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 is a collection of 33 short stories, a novella and two graphic novels. Illustrations enhance each story, supplementing the readers experience and understanding. Peter Healy wonderfully illustrated the two graphic novels, which are the retelling of previous short stories in the collection.

The characters and themes throughout this book are unique. While they share the connectedness of human struggles and moral issues, they do not intertwine. There are many messages taught through these stories which include unconditional love, acceptance, stereotyping, anguish, faith, death, birth, family values and narcissistic behaviors. Most of the stories are dark and have a miserable ending. Some offer a glimpse of hope, while others are down right horrifying.

I felt I could connect to many of the stories because they accurately portray the world we live in. I was left wanting more information and personality from some of the stories; characters that had a little more feeling. My two favorites were The Gift and SISTER CARRIE, the novella.

The Gift takes place in 1959 with Catherine, the seventeen year old protagonist, who has recently discovered she is pregnant. Her father remains loving and supportive, but her mother feels shame at the thought of gossip. Catherine seeks the advice of a local priest who arranges for her to “visit” a convent in the south of France. The baby is born and swept away before Catherine is able to get a glimpse. However, she know’s something is wrong when she wakes up and her friend Maggie is crying by her bed. Catherine and Maggie set out on a mission to find the little girl that she loves. Over the years that follow, we are able to glimpse the unconditional love of a mother and the strong support of family and friends. But lurking in the background is a mother who is uncaring, distant and unkind. Everyone will be swayed to one side or the other. You can choose if compassion or selfishness is the right path to follow.

Sister Carrie is the longest story in the book. With the stories greater length the reader is able to develop more feelings for the characters over the course of the novella. As the story unfolds, we are introduced to seventeen year old Carrie who is reeling from the sudden death of her parents. Jessie, Carrie’s sister, is the only family member willing to take on the responsibility of a teenagers care. After only four months, Carrie meets a young immigrant on the internet and falls in love. Jessie despises this relationship and try’s everything she can to keep them apart. Will Carrie persevere in this relationship that appears to be anything but normal and support the man she loves? Who has the right to say if someone truly loves another.

Author William H. Coles, has won many awards, including The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition to name a few. I would highly recommend reading this contemporary collection of short stories by a talented author.

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