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man v. nature book coverPlease join Diane Cook, author of Man V. Nature, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours.

Reviewed by Alisha Churbe

Diane Cook’s debut short story collection is impressive. A collection of twelve rich and textured stories that pushes characters to the brink, leaving them there to observe what happens when left on their own. The majority of the stories have an apocalyptic feel or an end-of-days scenario where the characters try and often fail at ways to remedy their struggles. The stories are governed by nature and often the characters fight the natural world as well as the other characters around them. Themes of karma and fate intersect and overlap throughout.

In the title story, three men, who were childhood friends, embark upon their annual boat trip. They somehow manage to get utterly lost on a lake. Secrets and true feelings are revealed as days of solitude, hunger and the flip-flop of hope and hopelessness eats at them.  In “Moving On,” the character is stranded and alone in a house that protects its inhabitants from the disaster that encircles it. The character is forced to befriend a stranger for further protection and realizes too late that the trust was misplaced.

Cook places her characters at a crossroad where they are forced to make tough decisions as well as face challenges in which they are not prepared. The characters are not overly weighed by description at times, but it is not missed because the descriptions that remain are dramatic and memorable. The structures of the stories themselves lend much more to how a character deals with the events surrounding them and the decisions that must be made in order to survive rather than how a character looks. Cook strips characters of anything unnecessary superfluous, leaving them to their own devices, instincts and vulnerabilities. It’s a look at how people react when pushed to the edge and then beyond that, further and further until very little resembles anything the character can draw on from previous experience or knowledge. Some characters lose it, some give up, others sink into the abyss (quite literally).

Cook’s collection is well-written, surprising throughout and resonates with you after the stories are done. The stories stand on their own, connected only by theme, the plots and characters are not linked. Cook’s debut is impressive and she’s an author that represents the short story form very well.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper Collins. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.