Rapture Practice
by Sam Howie
Main Street Rag Publishing Company

"I'd never sat so starkly on the supply side of compassion before."

These ten simple stories are easy to read yet ripple complexly, from sad to funny to bittersweet with the drop of a well-placed verb. Arresting first lines deliver on their promises to startle, entertain, amuse, enlighten and distress—sometimes all within one tale. "Orphan Honeymoon" begins: "Jack was tidying the orphans' graveyard at sunrise when his cell phone rang," and proceeds to marry newlywed humor with one man's painful emotional drought. "The first time Tara tried to fake her death, I fell for it," starts an insanely cheeky look at the serious responsibilities of love in "Get Your Dead Ass Up."

Unique descriptions animate the characters' wondrous internal dialogue. An alcoholic trapped in a well of his own creation remembers copulating black snakes "hanging from a rotting exposed beam, tangled together like a girl's pigtail and shaking like frog legs frying in a pan." A boy in the summer of innocence savors "red rover," while his childhood tiptoed to the door and bolted. Complex themes are woven in a masterfully seamless way as pain and sorrow react to hope; failure and compassion lead to forgiveness.

Set in the rural South, the author conveys an admirable sense of time and place with country dialects and references to Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Charles Atlas ads, racial integration, and Bachman Turner Overdrive.

These ten quirky, eccentric stories leave the reader wanting more; some beg expansion in a novel. The author, a native South Carolinian, teaches writing at Converse College in Spartanburg. This is his first book.

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