By: Julie Rogers
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Reviewed By: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Award-winning author Julie Rogers gives readers a collection of bizarre stories that provide healthy doses of humor mixed with horror in her book Seven Shorts. Though the tone of each story is entertaining, on a deeper level, they also provide Orwellian-style social critique. But even more, this author celebrates imaginative thinking: as Rogers asserts in the book’s postscript, “The fact is, people do strange things, and their imagination does the rest.”
The first story is about a sister whose brother serves in Vietnam, only to return home as boxed body parts. Can such an anguished collective psyche ever find solace? The second story, “Fish Tank,” is about a woman who is mentally compromised by her meds. Her mother dies, so she, matter-of-factly, takes care of the body and goes on living her life as usual, until local authorities and community gossips judge her, when they probably should have helped her. “Solo” is a ghost story that contains a close mother/daughter relationship that shifts when the mother dies and the daughter ends up in an institution, where she brushes her hair until it falls out. A spiritualist is called upon to relieve her psychoses. “The Estate” tells about a house haunted by the smell of bacon. Can the scent be removed with the help of a historian/psychic who is haunted by the dream of bloody handprints on a windowsill? Such seemingly disjointed clues do come together to resolve a mystery, but be ready for surprise twists. This absorbing collection contains Rogers’ Writer’s Digest award-winning story “House Call,” about a doctor who cares for a deranged seamstress. Be warned, this story gives all the gruesome details.
The final story, “Death Ticket,” posits a future totalitarian state with citizens trapped in horrific urban sterility, alienated from nature, each other, and the virtues that make us human. While concepts of this story are intriguing, some early scenes are too vaguely rendered. It is frustrating to see the main character work so hard to funnel money to his grandfather for spine surgery only to have the old man opt, instead, for euthanasia. In this case, it would be nice if character motivations were clearer to the reader.
The characters and situations in these stories are puzzling. The stories contain sudden shifts in perspective, time, and scene that can make the plots hard to follow thus demanding that a reader may need to read these stories multiple times before gaining satisfaction. However, the payoff is mostly worth the close read. Luckily, there is always a reward in each ending, as the author does a marvelous job of tying it all together.
Quill says: Seven Shorts contains intriguing story arcs, complicated characters, and bewildering conclusions that invite the reader to reread the stories and then open their eyes wide to take a good hard look at our current lived reality with fresh eyes.
For more information on Seven Shorts, please visit the author's website at: https://julierogersbooks.com/