The Stories That Make Us
by Shawn Gale

"Still, my parents' deaths clung to me like wood smoke to a wool sweater—the very fibre—always present in every scrap, voyage, and challenge."

Short stories are like snapshots. They capture moments in time. In this collection of verbal photos, the author covers a range of subjects, timeframes, situations, and emotions. There is no particular theme that holds them all together other than an exploration of humanity, which is perhaps the most unifying theme of all.

Gale’s stories introduce us to a particularly diverse cast of characters and circumstances. A young woman returns home to help her father die. A shady criminal learns the hard way he’s not as tough as he thinks he is. An old man unwittingly motivates his nephew to go to war, when his intent was just the opposite. Two tradesmen—one a blowhard, the other quite tentative—reveal what they’re really made of when danger puts them to the test. A boy faces adversity and finds an inner strength he didn’t know he possessed. An inmate accepts that he is his own jailer. A coed learns what her rent money is really paying for. An idyllic summer ends, but not the memory of it. A street musician’s song is heard no more.

More Carver than O. Henry, Gale’s stories are less about intricate plots and surprise endings and more about insight and the beginning of understanding. He shows a keen eye for detail, both physical and emotional. His dialogue is true to his characters. His physical descriptions paint easily conjured pictures, and his prose is confident whether examining the wretched or the wistful. All in all, this young writer’s collection marks an engaging beginning to a promising career.

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