25 December, 2015

#BookReview :: Hark – A Christmas Collection by Justin Bog

A beautifully written collection of short stories from critically acclaimed Pacific Northwest writer Justin Bog, Hark---A Christmas Collection explores the range of emotions surrounding the holidays. From melancholy to madness, loss and despair to hope and forgiveness, these six tales shimmer with feelings, some we'd rather stuff away, that Christmas can evoke.

Within Hark—A Christmas Collection, a retired police officer faces another Christmas Eve while bitter recollections haunt his every turn, a lonely businesswoman plans to seduce Santa Claus one Christmas Eve, a widow grows anxious searching for a misplaced present she intended to send to her ungrateful sister, a woman can't keep the images of her past---these ghosts---from haunting the life she chooses to live; while attending a Christmas party in Sun Valley, Idaho, a bookstore clerk and his partner are taught a lesson most un-holidaylike, and, in the final story, a couple portrays Mr. & Mrs. Claus in their small island town holiday festivities and face a grim diagnosis together. 

Set in colorful locations around the United States, from Anacortes, Washington, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Sun Valley, Idaho, each tale focuses on people who struggle to make good choices, learn lessons, and maybe even find peace during the holiday season.

Having read Justin Bog’s previous books, I kind of knew not to expect anything from the book while picking it up. The author always takes a new road and forges his own path with his unique style of storytelling.

There are six stories in the collection. In ‘Hark’ a police officer looks back on how one event changed his life forever. The next story, ‘Seducing Santa’, tells us about a woman daydreaming about her very own Santa. ‘Bracelet’ is about a misplaced gift and the relationship between two sisters. ‘Everyone wants me to’ is about a girl who is all but invisible too her parents, about her life and that of her family. ‘Snow Globe’ touches upon the subject of homosexuality and the society. ‘The Heralds’ is about an aging couple and their much anticipated stint as Mr.& Mrs. Claus. 

The above one-liners do not give out much about the stories and neither do they capture the true essence of the stories. Yet I chose to give one-liners as I really want other readers to pick up the book and experience it for themselves without having any prior expectations from it. 

Each story in the book brings forward a different aspect of life and emotion. People usually relate joy, happiness and hope with the Christmas season. But it is also the time when other emotions bubble up to the surface for many people – loss, loneliness, despair, pain, regret, anger, forgiveness. It is these emotions that the author has explored through his short stories. Some of the stories are light hearted and some even humourous; but all of them have a darker tinge to them if you look closely enough. If you are looking for Christmas joy and miracle stories, this collection is probably not for you.

Justin Bog has proved over and over again that he is a master storyteller. He artfully takes simple situations and portrays the depth of emotions that a person can feel. This is the third book that I have read by this author, and he still manages to surprise me and keep me guessing. Polished language and smooth flow in his narration are his prime assets.

Like with every other book of his (that I have read) this book too is not for everyone. A lot of people might feel disappointed if they pick this one up expecting sweetness and cheer dripping from it. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read ‘something different’ from time to time and has no issues with exploring every aspect of the season and not just the sunshine.

Review Copy received from the Author

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