Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Sickness and In Hell by Stefan Barkow

Book:  In Sickness and In Hell

Author:  Stefan Barkow

Grade:  B

Recommended To: Philosophers, People who like a creepy story.  Perfect for Halloween. 

This book is now available for purchase at: Amazon.com

I enjoyed this freshman effort by Barkow.*  In Sickness and in Hell is a collection of short stories that included themes ranging from forgiveness, to the supernatural.

I liked the vast majority of the stories in this book.  There were a few that seemed a little over my head and comprehension, but that's not to say that they were bad, just a little too thoughtful for a train ride home.

The absolute best part of this book is Barkow's writing. It is excellent. He has a strong gift for creating scenes and characters in a very short format.  Short stories are hard to write because so much must be conveyed in small number of pages and Barkow does this exceedingly well.   He is also very good at writing dialogue.  One of my biggest pet peeves in books is dialogue that is chunky and detracts from the story; not true in Barkow's work.  The dialogue adds to and supports the stories so well that I found myself marveling over how accurately Barkow captured his characters through dialogue.  Most reviews are subjective, but if there is one thing that cannot be argued with; it is that Barkow's writing is superb.

Because the stories are so short, it is hard to summarize them without giving it all away, so I will just point out a few of my favorites.  I really liked the cover story In Sickness and in Hell, which was truly a gem in regard to dialogue and plot twist.  I also enjoyed Forgive Me, Father, which included a different perspective on a well known and traditional bible story. The Definition was creepy and fun and very short and left me thinking about and re-reading the plot twist.

Finally, I enjoyed the theme of change that ran through the entire book. In Jen,Now, Barkow explores how people grow and change and that sometimes we love the image of a person, a past person, that can no longer exist.  This theme resonates throughout the stories and Barkow introduces a fresh perspective on change and how it effects our relationships with ourselves and others.

Overall, I really enjoyed this whole collection.  I don't know how many other stories Barkow has written, but although the stories were distinct, they include the same themes and worked well together in a compilation.  This is not a book that I would have picked up on my own, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to read and review it.

Happy Reading!

*Full disclaimer, I went to high school with Stefan and he is my brother-in-law's best friend.  He asked to to read and review his book and gave me a free copy.  I tried very hard not to let that influence my review, but I do think it is super cool to know someone with a published book!