Singh’s debut short story collection explores the intricacies of human emotion among everyday people.
This set of 13 stories, split into two sections, ranges from a tale about the seemingly mundane aggravation of waiting for home repair to stories of karma tales and supernatural visits from beyond the grave. Despite its outwardly disparate parts, Singh’s pieces are connected by the theme of a group of characters desperately fighting to escape their current circumstances, assert their self-worth or battle their base inner demons. There are no real happy endings here, and more than a few stories tend toward the macabre. The most successful pieces, however, contain flashes of real beauty. For example, in “The Only Absolute Relief,” the author captures the exquisite pain of a person yearning for a better life and the crushing emptiness after he realizes that the dream wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The collection abounds with flawed, achingly human, deftly drawn characters. Many of them are, through no fault of their own, cast out, down on their luck and seeking redemption. Few receive it. The stories do suffer at times from a somewhat heavy hand; some readers may find its long, run-on sentences distracting or discouraging. The stories in the book’s second section, most 10 pages or fewer in length, seem underdeveloped compared to those in the first, and despite intriguing storylines and robust characters, they often lack depth and resolve too quickly. The last piece, “Chief Flightless Bird,” for example, about a disabled, married man, starts off strong with genuine feeling but, at just over four pages long, doesn’t have the time to develop into the powerful ending needed for this collection.
An intriguing, if uneven, collection of stories from a writer with potential.