It’s December! And one of my favorite writers, Justin Bog, has just released HARK, an anthology of six Christmas stories. It’s a stellar collection from one of America’s best short story authors.
For 10 lucky residents of the US, Justin is giving away copies of his paperback via Goodreads until Dec 14th. Enter to win, easy to do.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I encourage you to read my 5-star review and grab your copy!
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HARK will touch your mind and your heart
HARK brings us six wonderful stories that occur at Christmastime. Unlike many books about this time of year, Mr. Bog’s collection pays tribute to the season without being melodramatic or candy-cane sweet.
In the lead-off story, “Hark,” a police officer replays an event that changed his life forever. Just as Christmas marks time each year, so do the memories and consequences of his tragedy. “Hark” is a strong lesson in our inability to change the past, to live in the present, and to hope for a better future.
If you are in the mood for a romantic-comedy, you will love “Seducing Santa.” It is whimsical and tongue-in-cheek, but it conjures the magical spirit of the season.
“Bracelet” in its simplicity brings to mind “The Gift of the Maji” by O. Henry. The ebb and flow of the story will cradle you like a warm ocean tide. The ending is picture-perfect with a delightful twist.
“Everyone Wants Me To” is the longest story in the collection with a similar theme to “Hark.” It’s about the intersection and merging of lives and the effects of these meetings. The story begins with Arlene as a young girl and finishes with her much later in life. It’s an incredibly ambitious tale, not easily told in a short story format, yet, Mr. Bog does it brilliantly. The use of several points of view and a seamless movement from first to third person narration adds layers upon layers of complexity. It is a cautionary tale about how adults deliver love and hate during the formative years of a child. Though it would be an over-simplification to say that negativity and abandonment begets a miserable life, I can fairly say that one is certainly at a disadvantage. Allegorical in its telling, “Everyone Wants Me To” reminds us of blessings we might otherwise take for granted.
My favorite story of the collection is “Snow Globe,” which takes place at a posh Christmas party. The atmosphere is festive; the conversations clipped and pretentious, as conversations tend to be at parties. I enjoyed the diversity of the guests—gay, straight, men, women, all intermingling at what is supposed to be a joyous occasion, yet, there is tension dripping out of champagne bottles. Despite all good intentions, one guest decides to speak his unpleasant truth. It’s an accurate study of human motivation, especially when confined in a pressure-cooker environment.
In “The Heralds,” the story that completes the collection, Kenneth Herald is battling a life-and-death illness. He and his wife discover a shocking truth right before Christmas and what they do is completely unexpected.
I compare the flow of these stories to that of a jazz song. They are delivered in slow, crisp tones. The notes hit the mark and draw in the reader. Like a ‘seasoned’ jazz singer though, Mr. Bog knows that too many trills or too much scat singing can rob a song of its essence, even if it may impress initially.
As such, HARK is a true lesson in storytelling restraint. Each tale, including the bonus “Poseidon Eyes” provides a window into the lives of people we know. They are not Christmas caricatures; their lives are not always extraordinary. They are pieces of you and me, and their stories will touch you whether you celebrate Christmas or not.
Buy the e-book from: Amazon worldwide
Buy the print version on Amazon
From the back cover:
A beautifully written collection of short stories from critically acclaimed Pacific Northwest writer Justin Bog, Hark explores the range of emotions surrounding the holidays. From melancholy to madness, loss and despair to hope and forgiveness, these six tales shimmer with feelings, some we’d rather stuff away, that Christmas can evoke.
Spanning from Anacortes, Washington, to Ann Arbor, Michigan and Sun Valley, Idaho, each tale is woven of people who struggle to make good choices, learn lessons, and maybe even find peace.
A bonus story, Poseidon Eyes, from the upcoming Sandcastle and Other Stories–The Complete Edition, is included.
Find Justin at all his virtual homes
Justin was originally interviewed June 2012.
Justin Bog lives in the Pacific Northwest on Fidalgo Island. Justin was Editor and Pop Culture Correspondent for In Classic Style. He is an experimental cook, a lawn mower, and master to two long coat German shepherds, Zippy and Kipling, and two barn cats, Ajax The Gray and Eartha Kitt’n.
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