Four American Tales

Love and Money Getting All Mixed Up

Four American Tales describes a world of hopes and fears on the far side of the American Dream, in a quartet of evocative stories about love and loss, struggle and ambition from the 1950s to the present day.

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About the Book

Wichega – an atmospheric tale of childhood’s dreams and nightmares; A Hundred Ways to Live – crime and punishment on the road to nowhere; Ballbusters on Parade – an unconventional parable of life in the sex industry; Uncle Mort – an unexpected bequest leads to marital problems.

Genre: Short stories
Tags: Historical fiction, Literary fiction, Women’s fiction
Publisher: Greyhound Press
Publication Year: 2016
Format: ebook
Length: Four Short Stories
ISBN: 9781524204211

List Price: FREE
These four short stories by Jack Messenger perfectly capture the intimacy of the everyday mundane detail in all its gritty pathos. From a young girl who doesn’t grasp the realities of the adult life she is tethered to, through a pair of thieves on the run in seedy hotel rooms and a stolen car, a successfully humiliated man who has made a living out of disappointing his father, to finally, a woman picking over the crumbs and cuttings of her own past in a relative’s death. There is nothing overly romanticised or dramatised here. The stories are told plainly and with total realism. Each story has its own distinct voice: they could have been dictated and then transcribed from the character’s own words, and each vibrates deeply with reality: real people, real lives, real pain. There is a common theme of secrets and truths denied. Sweet Pea creates a child’s fantasy around adult lies; Nadine and Earle search for hidden loot that may not be there; Mike hides his career from his father and the painful reality of it behind aspirational language; and Helen keeps her eyes averted from the truth she has always glimpsed from the corners of them. The ordinariness of their lives and thoughts masks, or rather highlights, the poignant emotions explored. I highly recommend this collection to fans of well-written and thought/emotion-provoking short fiction.
Unerringly, the hues change from story to story, from the atmosphere of alienation in One Hundred Ways to Live, to the outlandish, satirical humour of Ball Busters on Parade, to the intersection of childhood memory and death in Uncle Mort. Messenger’s language is precise, the right word, that gives you the feeling you are holding its weight in your palm, admiring its glint. These short stories, in my opinion, stand with the best in the form, and I would unhesitatingly place them on the same shelf with authors like Salinger and Carson McCullers.
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