Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: "Voodoo Heart" by Scott Snyder

It has been quite awhile since a book really floored me. Some of it has to do with the reading decisions I have been making, but most of it has to do with a massive life-changing event that I am going through right now involving moving across the country. I have been coasting for a while, at least with my focus on the book I have been reading. And it was nice to finally read a book that I feel is not only great, but more than great, something that is a masterpiece of an art form that is populated by people more interested in their own talent than the art of narrative. And I can safely say that Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder is masterpiece of the short story format. The amount of care that is put into every single story that is in this collection not only astounds me and makes me want to do better things in my personal creative journey, but makes me a bit emotional as well. There is not a hint of irony, pessimism or cynicism in any one of these 7 long stories, although the endings may make you think differently. They are written with the passion and intrigue you can find in the short stories of the masters like Flannery O’Conner and Shirley Jackson as well as contemporaries like Joe R. Lansdale and Wells Tower. They can scare you, manipulate you (in a good way), move you and ultimately break your heart. Since every story in this collection is great, I will discuss them all here in this review. The first story in the collection, “Blue Yodel” concerns a young man chasing the love of his life, who is holed up in a sky city that of floating around the country during the early 20th century. It has a theme that runs through most of the stories, which is the idea of romantic longing and the things we do to protect it. It is a very touching story, with an “uplifting” ending. “Happy Fish, Plus Coin” has another young man, running from his family, who finds himself in Florida working at a large bouncing house and befriending a messianic burn victim. It’s a bizarre fun ride you won’t forget. “About Face”, about a man who begins working for a military school after his life falls apart, touches on themes of romantic sacrifice, where you must let the person you love love someone else if you really care about them, even if the person is awful. The title story has a couple move into a large mansion near a women’s minimum-security prison, where the man begins to obsess over the compound as he moves toward a painful prophecy from his past he’s been trying to avoid; probably the darkest story here. The next story, “Wreck”, is probably the saddest, where a huge celebrity recovering from plastic surgery begins a romance with a meek loner out in the woods. The ending is inevitable, but it still quite melancholic. “Dumpster Tuesday” is the weirdest, where a once successful Wall Street trader loses his wife to a country singing oddity, which leads him in a direction that threatens to destroy his life; this one has to be read to be believed. The final story, “The Star Attraction of 1919” has a new pilot teaming up with a runaway bride as the travel the country giving rides in small towns. This one is really touching, despite the surprise downer at the end. The perfect collection of stories for anyone scorned by love that you feel you deserved, or anyone wanting a truly great short story collection, I cannot recommend this enough.

Rating: 5/5

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