Hellbent is a collection of short stories by Paul Blaney, author of Handover.
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To summarize before you, dear reader, expend energy reading this review: this collection is worth reading. It is a breath of fresh air, not long but intensely touching in simultaneously close and abstract reflections on self and family. The first story - the title piece, "Hellbent" - features Simon who finds himself reminiscing about his friendless time at St. Aldates, the Catholic school he is sent to after his mother abandons both him and his father. "These next three years we're playing a game, Satan and I," begins the Father in charge of Simon's education. "The prize is your soul and I don't mean to lose." The themes of self, religion, and choice - with the ever loud undertones of present or missing family - are presented throughout the collection in a variety of voices and settings. One story feels like a fable, and another could be the voice in each of our heads as we go about our day. The seamless transition between inner thought and grand metaphor binds the total together as a significant moment of connection and questioning - here we find the relatable and the provoking, the essence of what it is to feel out of place or search for meaning in the ups and downs of life.