Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Review: Thrown Out - Stories from Exeter by Jennie Coughlin (Exeter 0.5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Real, likable main characters
Cons: Antagonists not fully developed; abrupt ending of "End Run"
The Bottom Line:
Rich characters star
In four fun short stories.  You'll
Enjoy the visit

Welcome to the Town of Exeter

In the interest of full disclosure, author Jennie Coughlin is a friend.  When she asked me if I was interested in receiving a review copy of Thrown Out: Stories from Exeter, I immediately said yes, figuring that if I absolutely hated it, I would not review it.  Fortunately, that’s not the case.

This book is available in both electronic and traditional formats.  The paperback version is very thin since these four stories are 86 pages combined.  It makes for a quick read, but it is worth it.

Exeter is a fictitious small town in Massachusetts.  There’s a college in town, but the non-college part of the town is very small and most people have been there for years.  These stories don’t focus on any one character but give us glimpses of the people who live in the town.

“Bones of the Past” opens the collection, and it finds Riordan, a lawyer in town, telling Ellie, a newcomer, about the town’s past connections with the mob and how it all came to a head one summer.  While the story tells us what is to come in the first few pages, how the characters reacted to things is interested to watch.  I enjoyed this story very much.

“Thrown Out” focuses on Chris who has reached a crossroads in his relationship with Dan.  Can Chris overcome a very painful past to fully embrace Dan?  Again, the plot held few surprises for me, but the characters were brought to life from the very beginning, so the story was extremely powerful.  I could feel Chris’ pain on every page as he struggled with what he was going to do.

“End Run” was the weakest story in the book for me.  This one finds the owner of the general store, F.X. O’Leary, worried about his grandkids.  So he goes to Riordan to find a way he can learn more about what his kids are facing without upsetting his son.  This one ended so abruptly for me I honestly felt like it was half a story.  Again, the characters were well drawn and grabbed me from the first page.

Finally comes “Intricate Dance.”  This one flashes back to 1969 as a young Riordan takes on a high profile and political local divorce case at the same time he is trying to get serious with Becca, a young artist who he thinks is the love of his life.  This story held the most tension for me, but even then the characters were at the forefront.

While each story really does have a different focus as far as characters go, characters will pop up again in later stories.  Riordan is the closest thing to a main character, but he hardly appears in one story.

There is definitely enough plot to keep you engaged, but the stars are the characters.  The main ones are richly developed and feel very real after just a page or two.  The antagonists, of the stories, don’t fare nearly as well.  They are very flat and border on stereotypical, at least to me.  Granted, they aren’t the focus of the stories, and I’m sure if we were to see more of them, we’d understand them better.  Still, that was a disappointment.

So obviously I did have some small issues with the stories in Thrown Out: Stories from Exeter, but overall I enjoyed it.  It was a switch from my normal mystery dominated choices, and one I enjoyed.

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