Pill Hill Press. $16.99
Reviewed by Jenny Barber
When reviewing short story anthologies, it’s rare to find one in which all the stories appeal and sometimes the best we can hope for is that the balance is weighted towards the ones that do. Luckily, Back to the Middle of Nowhere has plenty of stories that hit the spot – and strangely, most of the good ones involve food.
Take “Specialty of the House” by Michael Giorgio, an excellent story set in a road-side café where visitors are rare but always gladly welcomed. There’s a thread of dark humour running through this tale and while the denouement isn’t unexpected, it’s seeing how it gets there that will keep you reading.
Out in the wide open spaces, it’s no surprise that strange breeds of flora pop up so don’t eat the apples in “In Apple Blossom Time” by Colin Insole. Once you get past the slow opener, this grows into a beautiful story with an ending that promises creepiness to come.
In “Land of Enchantment” by Mark Souza, the fruit to watch out for is the humble blackberry; this fruit bites back. The characters are unlikeable which does mar it somewhat, but the story is tasty enough to satisfy.
Moving away from food is the slightly predictable but still very good “Clutching at Straws” by Jay Raven. You know where it’s going as soon as the scarecrow is mentioned, but like “Specialty” the journey is going to keep you entranced.
As a whole, this is something that could be said about the anthology – many of the other stories have elements you’ve seen before, some of them take you there in ways that will keep you reading, others will flip you into a surprise turn-off just when you think you’ve got the route figured. So while the road may be a little bumpy in places, for the most part, the destination is worth it.