So I felt really guilty about reviewing either one of these short stories/novellas on their own so I squished them together and counted them as one book. Total they are barely 50 pages, but I’m including them anyway. The first, In Another Life, is an ARC from the publisher and I received nothing for my honest opinion; the second, Karma is the 2013 Boston Book Festival 1 City 1 Story selection.
I would’ve read this ages ago if I would only have realized that it was a novella/short story. For some reason I assumed this was a standard 150-200 page love story type novel. Regardless I am glad that I read it, even if it was only 28 pages.
They say that the hardest thing to write of all forms of writing is a short story. Now I don’t know who they are or whether this is true, but I can say I have read really bad short stories and amazing short stories. I think a lot of authors struggle with the finite amount of space and telling a complete story within the short story structure. And although E. E. Montgomery does a great job with this as a short story (or novella as the publisher says), this story would only have been better if it had more meat to it. I will say there were golden passages that made my breath catch and made me want the love the two characters had such as
“Quinn nudged me aside and I stepped back, tears pricking my eyes as I saw the look of love and devotion that passed between my two closest friends. IT was selfish of me, but I wanted that too, even though I knew I’d never have it. The last sixteen years had been a series of hook-ups and relationships that never lasted longer than three months. That was my cut-off time. After that, the other guy started thinking it was going to be permanent. Quinn was the only one who recognized I needed a friend more than a lover. He absorbed me into his life and kept me in it even after he and Jerry got together.” (loc. 167)
And the ending was perfect. There just wasn’t enough to the story. I felt the jumping eight years was a great plot device and necessary for the story, but it just left an empty feeling and a lot of questions. There was also no time for the two major and two minor characters to really develop over the brief storyline.
Recommendation: As it is so short you should definitely read it. I’m not sure of Montgomery has any other works available, but if they were in a similar strain to this I would definitely consider checking them out.
Opening Line: “I can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry.”
Closing Line: “He kissed the side of my face and whispered, ‘Never again.'” (Whited out.)
Now entering its fourth year, the One City, One Story of the Boston Book Festival has only improved with age. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all three previous stories, but this one has by far stood out for me. The purpose of One City, One Story is not unique to Boston and the idea is that an entire city reads the same story and has something to talk about. Somerville, where I technically live, does this same thing but they do an entire book rather than a short story. In the past Somerville has done Farm City, The Namesake and this year’s is The Art Forger.
It seems every time I read a short story I immediately think ‘Oh I should read more short story collections,’ and this was definitely one of those occasions. Rishi created an amazing story within the 24 short pages of Karma. I wasn’t sure where the story was going and I loved every page of it.
Rishi’s ability to write multiple characters and to even having those characters evolve slowly over 24 pages is astounding. The main character at first was annoying and made me not want to read the story but as his wife draws him out and the story moves forward you slowly realize that the world will right itself. Add in the inclusion of the cultural differences and you realize just how much Rishi crammed into this incredibly short story.
Recommendation: If there is one negative thing to say about this story it is that it ended. I could easily have read story after story of Rishi’s. The author’s writing is effortless and reading it is incredibly relaxing and enjoyable.
Opening Line: “Shankar Balareddy, unemployed professor and former convenience store clerk, and Prakash Balareddy, successful cardiologist, were as unlike each other as any two brothers could be.”
Closing Line: “The bird stirred in the paper bag as he walked back to the T.” (Whited out.)