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Monday, 13 April 2009
By Stephen Shieber
Firstly, I’d like to say what a pleasure it is to be able to review another collection of short stories for bookersatz.
Being Normal is a great affirmation that short story writing is alive and well! In this volume, Stephen Shieber has given us a diverse selection of stories that evoke every emotion going.
I love the way he can change key so effortlessly, both from story to story and within stories. ‘Happy Birthday, Son’ starts out in light-hearted tone (and incidentally had me feeling a little like Stephen had been eavesdropping on my life!), but by the end it had moved me to tears.
There are some unforgettable characters in these pages. I particularly liked Midge in ‘Suburbia’. ‘Harry’s always telling her not to believe that she’s the centre of attention. But it’s hard. She can only see herself, feel herself.’
It’s difficult with a collection like this to pick out favourites; they work so well as a whole. I did particularly like ‘A Little of What You Need’ though. The premise was so intriguing and the way the story unfolded was hugely satisfying.
Throughout all the stories, the writing is inspired. Excellent imagery and great use of language give the tales a sense of immediacy and reality that stays with the reader long after the story is finished.
Stephen has tackled some uncomfortable and challenging topics in this collection. And he’s done it with wit, elegance and insight. If you’re a fan of the short story form – and even if you’re not – I can highly recommend this book.
I look forward to reading further work by Stephen in the future.
Reviewed by Helen M Hunt