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Posted July 10, 2010
Micaela Morris in Jo's Heaven and Other Stories is a rare treat for those who enjoy their fiction short. Fifteen examples of fine fiction, several are first prize writing competition winners, and all are written by author John Howard Reid. The book covers a wide range of genres from romance to fantasy, thrillers, satire, and even science fiction, and of course Mr. Reid's own brand of quirky humor. Many of the selections feature a spirited character named Micaela Morris, and most are set in Kawbury, Kentucky.
A look at seven of my favorites.
In the title story, Jo's Heaven, we meet recurring heroine Micaela Morris. Micaela always dreamed of making the 117 mile drive to Jo's Heaven. She gazed at the sign post on the walk from school every day and imagined a magical, wondrous place. At eighteen, she made the trek herself in time to grant a dying man's last wish.
Raymond Wright was a poet. Wright and Wrong is set soon after his mother's passing. Raymond may have ended up with the shorter end of his mother's estate but his dealings with his sisters and brother inspired some of his most celebrated poems.
Fan-Fan is a white rabbit as well as a short that won a $500 first prize in the 2002 Southern Cross Literary Competition. She's no ordinary bunny with the run of her home except the computer room, where she enjoys a nibble of the electrical wires.
Changing Times takes the reader to Hedley's Creek, Australia. The parents of the narrator debate the necessity of an electric stove over the ancient wood burner the mother works on every day to cook for the family. This is a charming tale of how simple technology could bring serious change during the time of the Great Depression.
Micaela returns in Grand Illusions for a bit of sleuthing at the Kawbury Country Club when a club member is assaulted and Micaela is among the suspects. The book's largest selection was a contest-winning screenplay before being offered here in story form.
A futuristic departure from the mainly present day set selections is the science fiction piece Simon the Seer. Simon's life is threatened while broadcasting his once enormously popular Prophecies of Tomorrow TV programme.
Miss Morris makes her final appearance in the closing story, Singing Fool. Micaela, the former country club official, turned P.I. and celebrity bodyguard, tests her vocal chops in a Gilbert and Sullivan Revival.
Micaela Morris in Jo's Heaven and Other Stories is a perfect coffee break companion. Savour a story a day for three weeks while you enjoy the escape from the grind in these well-crafted, entertaining selections. The collection is strong throughout as the author has a knack for capturing reader interest quickly, holding that interest, and for developing his endearing characters efficiently and with memorable effect. Highly recommended for short fiction enthusiasts.
Reviewed by William Potter for Reader's Choice Book Reviews
Posted May 15, 2010
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