A collection of short stories organized around the mental image of a sitting child.
It begins with a young boy, Jafar, who works in a furniture factory under an abusive boss, secretly attending a school for working children. He attaches a short poem to one of the chairs that he’s made to be shipped off into the world, leading right to the next story, about a little girl, Macie, who defiantly sits in a timeout chair. The stories progress from one character to the next, continuing the thread. In “The Question Chair,” German student Gretchen ponders the Holocaust while seated on a communal toilet during a tour of a concentration camp. In another story, Jed, an Amish boy, sits on a schoolhouse fence, anxious about the task set before him: to help restore a school that was ambushed by a shooter. His little sister had been one of the fatalities. The apparent purpose of the book is to draw attention to traumatic events in the lives of children the world over, but Ellis’ attempts to personalize these stories through the main characters often leave readers working to fill in the gaps. Without resolution, the stories provoke unease, and how readers respond to them may depend in large part on whether they have suffered trauma themselves.
The book is dedicated “to all who just need a moment of peace,” but it may leave readers feeling far from peaceful. (Short stories. 10-14)