I usually review YA fiction, but an excellent author who stops in my coffee shop from time to time asked if I would review his collection of short stories. The reason? Not because he wanted a shoe-in good review (he knows my blog and therefore knows that I often give best-sellers 3 stars. Or less). But because wanted my honest opinion, and he likes you guys- my followers!
I am so glad I read Michel Sauret’s book Amidst Traffic. This collection of short stories is smart and colorful. The storylines are unexpected and authentic. The images are crisp and gritty. The characters are oh-so real and the details are perfectly chosen.
Although each story is unique, similar themes run throughout: faith, addiction, the human condition, family, esp, mental illness… each story is a very well-crafted snapshot of characters complex enough to have their own novels. There is a supernatural thread that ties all the stories together, giving it a paranormal flair and a more connected story. It took me a little while (about halfway through) to fully see the threads, but once I did I had to keep reading.
What I like best about this collection is that it is so smart. It is thoughtful. The author makes no secret of his Christian faith (in the foreword and thank-yous), yet the book is NOT AT ALL the trite, bubbly, easy-answer fiction that so often sours the reputation of artists who are Christian. His characters (a pair of them at age 17) have deep theological conversations with no definitive answers. He writes authentically from all perspectives and walks of life. None of his characters are shallow. Teenagers, children, elderly, rich, poor, suits, junkies… all have deep, complex thoughts. At times, the conversations moved a little slowly, but they were almost always saved by some really well-done action. I love how he plays with time. Some stories are set in the past, some in the present, but all have a timeless quality to them.
In short, you will be a better person for having read this book. It made me think about things that I often push to the background- questions that are basic to everybody’s existence. This book makes no claim to answer those questions. Instead, it lets us in on the conversations that we’ve probably had in our heads but never voiced.
Four out of five stars for me!
What happened to that last star? Well, because I’m used to reading novels (and YA novels, at that) it took me a little while to get invested in this book. The first half was a little slow for me. But stick it out! If you quit in the middle you will be frustrated- the supernatural thread will be half-formed and the stories won’t make as much sense. Reading stories near the back completes the ones near the front and visa-versa.
It’s easy to see how this book racked up some really great reviews.
So if you want to buy this book in paperback, go here. ($8.26 at the writing of this)
For kindle, go here. (.99 at the writing of this)
If you want to see his gorgeous wedding and family photography (or if you’re looking for a fantastic photographer in Pittsburgh!), check out his website, One-Way Street Production.