World Outside the Window
2008, hardback & Kindle
First anthology? Yes
Mark Terence Chapman, Pamela K. Kinney, D. K. Christi
, Anthony Waugh, Rebecca Buckley, Woodrow Walker, Morgan St. James,
Robert A. Meacham, Jay Osman, Larry L. Evans, B.W. Philpot, Jim Wilsky,
Tory Lynn, Lana M. Ho-Sheing, Matthew Alan Pierce, Erin Gordon, Curtis
M. Hendel, Richard Lord, E. Don Harpe
blistering hot July afternoon, Lorene’s salvation did appear, although
at first glance it didn’t seem to be the kind she’d been praying for.
That was the day Henry Brooks came walking up the road. ...The
smile didn’t fool Lorene. Angelic looking or not, all Lorene saw was
Reviewed by Avis Hickman-Gibb
was asked, and I procrastinated for a couple of months. I dithered and
stopped and started. Maybe I’d get it done reading it in bed - but it
was too bulky. Perhaps I could just pick it up when I had a spare few
minutes and get through it that way? No, it seems. Or maybe I could
settle to reading it when I was on the train with nothing more to do
than stare out at the scenery whizzing by - nada on that one, too.
Ok I admit it, I am old fashioned. The reason I took so long to review
this book is because it was presented to me as a PDF file, and it was
mounted on my laptop. So if the rest of this review is skewed, forgive
me. What I don’t want to do is scroll backwards and forwards and read
the words from a palely glowing screen. To me it smacks too much of
work to be able to enjoy the process of reading the stories. I found
myself in editor mode, as I am when I read my own stuff through - that
should be a semi colon not a comma, I’d have started a new paragraph
there, and on, and on.
Apparently I don’t do reading for fun from a screen. Who knew?
And yes I know this is so non-eco friendly. And I have thought about
the rainforests – but I don’t seem able to help myself. I admit I like
paper to hold and flick through; stick my fingers in to turn back to
that section about...
But enough of my excuses, let’s get back to the stories. There are 19
of them all by Amazon shorts writers – by which I mean writers who work
is obtainable through Amazon, not that the people who reside in South
America and who are height challenged. The unifying premise is simple -
you are asked to imagine a building with 19 windows, through one each
of which a different writer views the outside world and hence the
There is a mixed bag within. And some I did think could do with a
stringent editor’s pen through their grammar, then I realised that the
writers were not born English but American; and so we have the
perennial UK versus US version usages of English. So given that, let’s
get going on the stories.
The first gem of this collection for me was Saying Goodbye to Miss Molly.
If Ms. St James will forgive a comparison, it was approaching Alan
Bennett’s level in its “talking head” pathos. I could see the old lady
as she wound down her life, hear that life come alive again for one
last time through her memories. My one quibble was – for me - an
ambiguously sad ending. Was she reunited with her lost love or was it
just a figment of her imagination? I so wanted it to be the first.
The stories preceding it while diverse and competent didn’t make the
impact that Miss Molly did.
However, I did think Rose’s Question
by D. K. Christi was charming in its intent – but I found the
conversations between the main character and her young inquisitor a tad
unbelievable; the language seemed far too sophisticated for use to a
child. But the premise was unusual and it caught my interest.
I loved Neal’s Noel. It was
well written and utterly charming – even with the very tenuous link to
the collection’s premise. I am a sucker for good stories about
children. And I hope the author Jay Osman won’t be offended if I tell
you it reminded me strongly of Louisa M. Alcott’s work, and I think
that is a great achievement.
Next up is The Mailbox by
Larry L. Evans. This is yet another talking head piece, which is both
sentimental and horrific - dealing as it does with topics as diverse as
the Vietnam War to incestual child abuse. It is a solid tale, with a
beautiful, wistful finish. Maybe it could be improved by a prune, but
overall it worked for me.
Now when we get to Strange Dreams
by B. W. Philpot and Only There was
by Jim Wilsky the stories only come together in the final paragraphs.
For much of the body of the first story I was wondering where the link
with the collection’s basic premise was – the looking out through a
window thing? And in the second, there was a little too much of it
going for me. And they both gave too much nostalgia in a sitting. But
then the final paragraphs burst upon the reader and they are bursting
with originality. A pity so much of the stories are in set up for their
In my opinion the two stories Etude
and Smoke Rings
are really stream--of-consciousness ventings and I sincerely hope they
provided some cathartic healing for the author, Ms. Lana M. Ho-Shing,
in the writing. The latter is a firsthand account of the events of
September 11th 2001 in New York - a catastrophic day for humanity. But
this reader would have preferred this account of the events to be
viewed with much greater distance in order to turn the words contained
therein into a fully fledged story. In the author’s notes at the end
there is a hint of an encounter with a higher being, but as this thread
is not carried through into the main body, there is no resolution. But
maybe that’s just as in life.
by Matthew Alan Piece didn’t work for me. In my opinion, it could stand
a good hard prune. I nearly missed the kernel of honest prose this
story carried about life and sudden death in the US forces in Iraq.
That section read true. and I would recommend Mr Price to build on
The stories which followed were less substantial. This Time Forever
by Erin Gordon is a slight piece about a lover’s misunderstanding and
it must be said – it could have been told a lot quicker. In Suspicious Activity
by Curtis M. Hendel the sudden spine-chilling revelation of the import
of his doodles is over powered by the rest of the meandering story. And
on to House Arrest by Richard
Lord –do we have a metaphor for purgatory, or is there some annoyingly
sinister agency at work here, locking up randomly chosen people for
their own furtherment?
I am sorry to say but that by this point I was a little tired of the by
now well worn devices of soldier, lovers walking hand in hand,
beautiful women on a benches, children playing ball and dogs wagging
tails being observed outside the various windows in several of the
stories. Were they all they same ones, I wondered? What busy characters
they were. As devices they grated in the repetition.
Then finally, we have Killing Frost
by E. Don Harpe. This skillfully weaves a tale set firmly in the
American South in the mid 1930s. The flavour of the story is keen and
very tangy; the crisp writing puts us right there with the characters.
The story is well crafted and reaches a poignant – if rather hurried –
conclusion, telling us of poor Alice who ultimately waits all her life
for a ghost.
As I have already said, the format was – for me - against this book
from the start, and I freely admit that it might well have coloured my
opinions here. But I think as a collection it didn’t work, the
repetitions mentioned before jarred and caused indigestion - and in the
end just plain grated on the nerves. After some consideration I feel
this was problem generated by the rather tight premise in the first
place, so I vote to absolve the authors for their innocent parts in
this- and when the stories fly free and escape these irritants they
mostly all have some kernel of truth within.
from this collection on Amazon.com