Title: You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home: wonder stories.
Author: Alex Jeffers
Cover artist: Alex Jeffers
Publisher: Lethe Press
Amazon Buy Link:You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home: wonder stories
Genre: contemporary gay fiction/scifi/fantasy/ some romance
Length: 196 pages/73000 words
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Superb collection of ten short stories with romantic and fantasy elements in it.
From the author of Safe as Houses and The Abode of Bliss, ten wondrous tales of yesterday, today, and tomorrow—of our familiar world and others. An American teenager meets Adonis on a sailing cruise off the coast of Turkey. A merchant of the Silk Road encounters a dog—and a brother—from another world. An old lady on a distant planet attempts to help her great-grandson grow up in a world that will soon forget women ever existed. A Massachusetts boy refuses to visit fairyland. Another American teenager on vacation encounters three fallen angels and is transformed. Alex Jeffers’s first collection of fantastical stories is a treacherous box of delights.
I think Alex Jeffers is a fantastic writer – his beautiful lyrical writing style really works for me.- I have read and reviewed two of his longer works (and if I am not mistaken he only has three or four longer works published?) and really liked them and reviewed them here, so I wanted to review this book.
Before I go on, may I just rant a little bit? Bad blurb, *very* bad blurb. Oh my goodness, this blurb so “helpfully” reveals several revelations I would have wanted to hide from you guys . Rant is over now.
This is a collection of ten short stories, - though a couple of them you can probably call novelettes, (one day I will remember the difference in the words count between these two). The stories are unrelated to each other – the only common theme of the sorts is that vast majority of those stories has some sort of fantasy or scifi element. Mostly we have creatures from other worlds/dimensions appearing in our world for whatever reason and get integrated in what is happening in “our” world, but sometimes the action happens in another world as well. In one story a mythological element is very strongly hinted at/implied, but one can never be sure if the element is present or the writer only teases us. I would say that almost all the stories have romantic elements in them; – some are more concentrated on them than others, and there is definitely love in all of the stories, but love of different kinds, not just romantic love.
Some stories have happier endings, and a couple were quite depressing in my opinion, but I loved them all. - My only niggle was that in one story the fantastical element really did not gel well with the “real” part of the settings, so it just did not work for me. In every other story it worked for me to perfection. I really loved how the writer blended reality and myth and made me wonder several times what was meant to be real and what was not. I think I would compare these stories with the Shaheresada’s stories, even though there is no one unified narrator for all of them, it is just the feeling I got when I was reading this book. I am going to highlight some of my favorites of this collection, but as I said IMO overall they are all very well written stories, it is just some were more to my taste than the others.
The first story “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Blood for Sorrow, Salt for Joy” shares the title of my very favorite with the second story which I will talk about next. No, contrary to what the blurb tells you it is *not* 100% clear that Luke meets Adonis while on vacation in Turkey with his dad and stepmother. Luke is attracted to the deckhand who was working for them while they were sailing. Now the myth features very prominently in this story and of course it is possible that the guy was actually Adonis, but it is also possible that Luke listened to too many stories and imagined too many things IMO . This was one of the most romantic and happy stories in the collection and I really adored it. Of course the dedication states “For Sandra McDonald who wanted a happy ending”, so since I already love his writing, no matter whether the subject matter is the happy or sad, of course it was an extra plus for me to know how the story would end . The ending is actually firmly happily for now, and I was quite glad that basically we can see that these two teenagers will continue to get to know each other after the initial attraction and not get married tomorrow or anything like that.
“The Arab’s Prayer” is also a story that hit several right buttons for me. It is about the couple in Israel – a Jew and Arab, an established couple waiting whether the Knesset will finally pass the law allowing them to marry. It is even shorter than the first story, but so much is packed in these few pages, I felt that these two guys could easily be the main characters in a *very* long novel, but the glimpse from their lives in this short was satisfying for me and while I wanted more, it was not in a frustrating way if that makes sense . This was the only story in the anthology which for me was completely realistic without any fantasy elements.
I also really loved the story called “Turning.” – It is a darker story, but the possibility of reconciliation and in a sense redemption just completely won me over.
“Liam and the Wild fairy” was just so good and I loved the ending. Talk about unexpected possibility of escaping the pain of being a teenager and realizing what truly matters to you the most.
“Firooz and His Brother” was an unusual story about the unexpected gift one brother offers another brother.
“Then we went were” was actually the story where the fantasy element stopped working for me through the middle of the story, but it may work very well for you. It actually worked perfectly in the beginning, as another teenager finds a time and place to escape from bullies, but what it turned out to be just really did not work for me.
“Jannicke’s Cat” downright depressed me, however this was one of the most thoughtful explorations of this premise as opposed to superficial silliness I have read in the past.