Author: Larry Benjamin
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing
Cover Artist: Decorous Anarchy
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 12/12/2015
Length: Short Story (<15K)
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Paranormal
“Get your black ugly ass up outta that bed!”
That’s how his mother had woken him every morning. “Get your black ugly ass up outta that bed!”
Later, the adjectives multiplied. Tar baby. Faggot. Queer. Tar baby faggot queer. And still later, when he’d started to achieve, started to make friends with white guys, “Oreo” and “snow queen” were added to the vocabulary of hate.
When he was young, he’d learned that words hurt, maimed, scarred. When he got older, he’d learned that words could also comfort, heal. But he’d never forgotten the first lesson. Perhaps that was why he’d chosen a career in finance. Numbers added up; they did not tear down.
Black is beautiful.
Survival is not guaranteed, even when alive.
Karma is a bitch.
Weakness often reveals truth.
Hope can become reality.
I could leave my review at this, right here, and I’d be satisfied in knowing I’d have informed you of some of the main themes of this story and expressed my interpretations and feelings about them.
But I won’t do that. I can’t. Larry Benjamin inspires me to share more than that. He’s kinda pushy like that, what with his poetry disguised as prose, characters who carry their imperfections like the burdens they sometimes are, and causing my curiosity to jolt, reminding me how good it feels to be yanked into a story and taken to places I could not anticipate.
Benjamin likes to use his stories and characters to explore. His characters aren’t common in that they aren’t commonly found in literature, despite their large numbers as part of the human experience. This true of Colby, Boy, St. John, and, of course, Mama. Race, regrets, desire, loss, stupidity, and so much more is packed into this short story. Every word is worth every penny.
Grief. And it’s effects on the heart, and daily life, and family, and love. Each character is experiencing one or more of the roles grief can play in our lives. It makes us see things and make decisions that aren’t necessarily the reality of ourselves, both inside and out. Old grief or newly experienced grief, they shape our lives and sometimes it takes someone else to remind and show us who we really might be.
Setting the scene and creating atmosphere are bold strengths of Benjamin’s writing and he utilizes them here. Even when quickly changing from one location to another, I felt like I was inhabiting each one, experiencing the brightness, the ugly and the sadness, and the hope. There are a few lines that felt too stark, too sharp, a bit too much like shock value, even if they did fit the anti-timidity of the scene.
I tried to find a passage to share that wouldn’t give anything away and yet still make some sense outside the context of the story, and it was difficult. I’ll share this, though, because it’s one of my favorite lines, and is true:
But, he was blinded by the cataracts of his grief, and she knew those who cannot see often cannot here.
My only wish for this story would be that there was more of it. You guys know me, I love short stories and this one is complete, including that fantastic last scene, which made me cackle after having been raked over the emotional coals. But if this were longer, with even more time to explore these characters and what they’re going through? Holy stratosphere, Batman. I know what happens when Larry Benjamin gets his hand on a novel length story, what he does with it, and what it does to me.
I want that with these characters. That’s my request. I want it.
PS: regarding the title, once you read the story, it packs a punch. And the “book 2” is in reference to Mama and her appearance in The Christmas Present, originally published as part of the Boughs of Evergreen anthology.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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