The following article is by Ray Walsh of Curious Book Shop in East Lansing.
Entertaining short stories are the focus of two slim new releases by Michigan writers. One is by a local attorney while the other is by a Milford undertaker.
â€œDeckerville and Other Storiesâ€ by Lansing author Peter Ohren (iUniverse, $13.95) is an intriguing inter-related collection of tales set in a small Michigan farming community.
It features some of the characters who appeared in Ohrenâ€™s unusual 2005 novel â€œHow it is with Miraclesâ€, further exploring their lives and relationships.
The nicely designed trade paperback includes stories that have appeared in a variety of publications, including
The Timber Creek Review and Lansing City Limits.
The stories grab the readerâ€™s attention by offering insights into the lives of a variety of townspeople, including a mechanic, a bar owner, a waitress, a priest and others.
Particularly effective is a story regarding the visit of an elderly couple to get an item appraised at an Antique Roadshow in Saginaw. Another describes the plight of a bankrupt farmer who now works in a local video store.
Ohren, an MSU graduate and local real estate attorney, has deftly created an excellent grouping of short stories thatâ€™s likely to have readers clamoring for more.
Unfortunately, the same canâ€™t be said for the new collection by Thomas Lynch, a Milford undertaker whose essays and poetry have garnered high acclaim.
â€œApparition & Late Fictionsâ€ (Norton, $24.95) offers a novella and four short stories that have a common thread, dealing with death, grieving and mourning.
The opening story, â€Catch and Releaseâ€ follows the attitudes and memories of a fishing guide whoâ€™s distributing his fatherâ€™s ashes. â€œBloodsportâ€ showcases the emotions and conflicts of a local embalmer. It was included in Best American Mystery Stories 2001, edited by Lawrence Block.
â€œHunterâ€™s Moonâ€ features a successful casket salesman and his reflections after the death of his wife. A longer story, â€œMatinee de Septembreâ€, probes the quirky main characterâ€™s attitudes and memories; itâ€™s mostly set on Mackinac Island.
The title story, â€œApparitionâ€ has great potential, examining the trials, tribulations and success of a minister who makes a fortune as a writer and speaker after heâ€™s divorced.
There are segments and parts of each story that are brilliant, but overall the narratives are marred by disjointed character development and too many flashbacks.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansingâ€™s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels since 1987.
This review first appeared in the Lansing State Journal. Visit the Curious Book Shop online by clicking here.