Sunday, September 23, 2012

SONORAN DREAMS: Three Short Stories From Exile By Robb Grindstaff

Reviewed by Jacey.


Sonoran Dreams: Three Short Stories From ExileThe Sonoran Desert in the American Southwest is a place of extremes and contrasts, of beauty and death, of independent spirits and lost souls, of fresh starts and exiles.

Three short stories, three different genres. One setting. One author with a unique perspective and voice.


Ok, so I'm gonna try keeping the spoilers at a minimum, and I'll leave as many of the twists I found in these stories for readers to find themselves. As a writer who mostly composes short stories and also intrigued that one of these contained some amounts of horror, I was immediately drawn to reviewing this. Overall, I'm happy I did. 
The first tale, entitled "Desert Rain" narrates the life-long pursuit of Cordelia by the seemingly undead entity Raymond, who is determined to take away his "Bride's" virginity. Not only does this creature pursue her across decades, the rancid scent he carries is passed on to her after molesting Cordelia as a child, a stench so disgusting that it keeps anyone that would be intimate with her away. This story can only be horror, and it excels at it. There were several moments where I found myself clutching my stomach as it flip-flopped, and several other times where my nerves rang from the torment of Cordelia. I could not help but think that her plight from Raymond was an illustration for rape, where victims can be scarred or traumatized for life by the events that took place and will always be pursued by them while they simultaneously keep people at a distance. While reading this there were a few instances where I thought there could have been more dialogue from the protagonist towards Raymond. Additionally, there were moments that I wasn't sure if the horror was meant to be campy or comical. Nevertheless, I got a real good kick out of this tale.
The second story "Desert Walk" was an interesting observation on today's financial crisis, painting a picture of families who live beyond their means. One is really taken into the denial of a couple that insists that one needs to take risks in order to gain success and that there is more value in material goods than human substance. The symbolism of Denny talking that long, death-defying walk in the desert is thought-provoking, and though the vagueness may becoming infuriating to some, I thought the story's resolve was splendid.
The final tale "Desert Nights" was an interesting take on tradition, that being the reuniting of graduated or graduating high schoolers, with a focus on ritual (such as giving a toast to a foolish teenager) and roles they take. Grindstaff uses intriguing juxtaposition of two characters who's actions and fates are interlocked in a way that brings the group's "traditions" full circle many years later. I initially found it very hard to empathize with this story, as I was confused as to whether that tradition that came full circle should be glorified, or was it just meant to be. I decided on the latter, and it was satisfying.
This compilation of short stories could have been less vague about some details in them; overall though, I thought that this was mostly an awesome ride. I would definitely recommend it for people who want a good gut-wrenching here and there, for people who are in need of another side of what "success" is, and also for those who are wary of fate and being caught in an unhealthy loop.

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