Slum Roots: Julianna and Other Short Stories
by Dan Carroll
Vanity Press Books

"'When I brought Julianna the red roses I knew it would be the last day I ever saw her.' Building a collection of short stories on the saga that has garnered him the most kudos as a writer, Dan Carroll examines females in the throes of passion – but not necessarily the passion of love."

In the title story "Julianna," we meet the haunting young woman who evokes for Carroll the memories of lovely ladies he met on what he refers to as his "global adventures" living and working overseas. "Whatever she was, she was gorgeous." But Julianna is not gorgeous enough to keep her American lover from leaving; caught between her considerable charms and his knowledge that Julianna is a married woman, Robert forces himself to part from her in order to save her from disgrace.

The collection continues in "Caresse," where we encounter another sort of passion: vengeful obsession, in the mind and heart of an artistic woman who was raped and saw her husband killed. She must complete her portrait of the assailant, and destroy it; and with it, possibly destroy her only chance for a redemptive new life. "Holding Hands" puts us into the mind of a young Muslim girl newly arrived in America, longing to blend in but restricted by culture from offering a simple expression of friendship. "Things were not shameless here, people could say what they feel, everything was in the open. "Purge" is a twisting, harrowing international and intergenerational tale of war, rage, denial, and death – with a possibility of atonement, at a price. In "Christmas Tears," we meet a child who learns that her talent can be enough, can be a gift she gives herself, even if her family is incapable of sharing in it.

"Julianna" is a short book, with a rather long introduction in which the author confesses that the title tale is the seed story from which he generated two award-winning novels about romance and its complications in the Third World (Slum and Slum Song). He hand-picked the accompanying stories as a "melange of human passions" about "five females who embody those passions." As a theme for a collection, it works well; readers might only wish it were longer. Carroll is on his way to developing a fan base, one suspects, and this small but artful offering will doubtless support that initiative.

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