A collection delivers short stories with a Christian bent.
Mitchley (Breaking Through, 2008) describes the volume’s offerings, mostly biblical allegories and parables, as “shock stories,” and they usually end with an ironic twist or a lesson. The collection is slim; the longest of the 10 stories comes in at 13 pages. The opener, “Having it Out With Myself,” enacts an angry encounter between a man and his neighbor. “Old Abe” leads to a sort of spiritual reconciliation; “Pride” is a parable about a proud man trying to get into heaven with a proverbial ending. “Paranoid Master” imagines the next 50 years of American life with nature upturned by scientific meddling run rampant. The title story relates a prison interview and the confessions of an envious man, while “Counterfeit Salvation” tells of a preacher working undercover at a dive bar in order to save the clientele. The penultimate story, “Destiny,” tells of “a surreal way of producing honey” that comes out of a son’s death. “The Strap,” “Mailboxes,” “ ’66 Dodge Coronet,” and “Gravity of Life” are all shorter sketches of a more personal nature, each ending with its own edifying message. These stories have a feeling of surrealism that is common in parables, using the difference between the expected and the reality of the tale to explain the contemporary world and its spiritual problems. Without the tether of realism, though, the writing is often didactic and simple, and the plotting can feel rushed—many of the stories end with the narrator telling the reader exactly what to take from the tale. Mitchley’s framing in some of the works is unique, such as “Destiny,” which is narrated by a reporter recording a podcast. But it can sometimes be hard to know who is telling a story at any one time, especially in “Paranoid Master.” The morals of Mitchley’s tales will likely land differently for readers, depending on their faith—for some, they will be reassuring and enlightening, but for many secular readers, the lessons will seem overly familiar.
This slim volume offers quirky, quick stories that should appeal to those looking for a spiritual guide.