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Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino
To me, a great short story is one that makes you uncomfortable. One that puts you in a living room, hospital room or a crowded train where you know you aren’t supposed to be. That’s how Wanderers by Edward Belfar made me feel. Each story is descriptive and imaginative, yet real and often very raw. In most of the stories, Belfar seems to place the emotional issues at hand buried under the text so the reader has to sort them out and discover why the story invokes a certain emotion. In some stories, a quick second read unwraps a new layer and made me pick up on something completely missed on first read.
Wanderers is full of people unsure of themselves, their families, their place in the world, and often their spouses. There appears to be an underlying message of a quiet heartbreak, yet each character continues on and pushes through, even if the pain isn’t essentially overcome or forgotten. My favorite stories were “Roman Honeymoon”, “Leaving the Chesapeake” and “Eviction”. I am not quite sure why, but I found all of the stories with a strong male main character to be more enticing. Belfar constructs each character to still maintain a bit of quiet stoicism, even when their worlds and emotions are crumbling.
Wanderers is a descriptive, yet bleak novel that builds settings in environments that seem to remove the basic comforts of life. Belfar uses this to his advantage and provides the reader with just the right amount of details and awkward descriptions to make the story vivid. Whether it is a mental ward, a hospital room, a tribal wedding ceremony, a whorehouse or a tent in a foreign country, each setting, and story seem to provide no comfort. The stories are on the shorter side, stripped down and real. In some cases, it is easy to imagine how one simple decision that sparks a landslide places a particular character in their situation. It seems up to them also to pull themselves free, often to no avail.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Stephen F. Austin University Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.