by Robb Grindstaff
43 Pages, Kindle Edition
Review by J. S. Colley
Note: I am acquainted with the author through social networking. This is not an admission that my review is biased in any way. I received a free copy of this ebook for review purposes.
As the title indicates, this collection comprises three short stories set in the Sonoran Desert: “Desert Rain,” “Desert Walk,” and “Desert Nights.” In each of the stories, the harsh, but beautiful, landscape of the desert is reflected in the author’s brutal, yet tender, prose.
In the first story, “Desert Rain,” (voted one of the Top 10 stories ever published in Horror Bound magazine) the beauty of the prose juxtaposed with the horror of the story provides a startling contrast and adds power to the narrative. The story surrounds Cordelia, who is holed up in the desert, hiding from her stepfather, a man who has promised to one day claim her virginity. Here she remembers him from her youth: “It was not a smell she could ever completely purge from her nostrils. Only in a desert rain would this foulest of odors dissipate.” From here, the author continues to weaves a truly horrifying tale.
I am not a horror fan, nor do I claim to know much about the genre, but the writing allows it to transcend genre. I think it is my favorite of the three stories.
The next story, “Desert Walk,” tells the tale of a man who has lost, or is about to lose, everything: business, home, wife. He decides to walk one hundred miles across the desert to a town called Hope. As he walks through the unforgiving desert, the challenges he faces become a metaphor of his life, with one struggle after another. If he just keeps on keeping on, he will make it to the town, right? At one point he thinks about trying to get to a highway only seven miles away to flag down someone for help, but he has second thoughts, “But that would be giving up. Surrendering. Falling just short of the goal, taking the easy way out. He'd done too much of that lately.” As the name of the town he is trying to reach would indicate, the theme of this story is hope and redemption.
The last story, “Desert Nights,” surrounds a group of teenagers trying to escape the boredom and emptiness of their lives by hanging out in the desert under the power lines and making bad choices. The theme of this story might be the inescapable nature of our destinies, or not learning from our past mistakes. I thought this might be my least favorite of the stories, but then Grindstaff comes through with a powerful thought-provoking ending, bringing the story full circle.
Each of the stories has a haunting, desert-like quality about them—underneath the peaceful facade rests a callous reality.
Sonoran Dreams: Three Short Stories from Exile is a worthy read by a talented author.