Small towns always seem to offer a range of distinctive characters, and more often than not you can trace the links between them. That is exactly what Tara Manual does in this book. It is effectively a collection of short stories, each revolving around one of these characters, with some of the stories and people being connected in various often unexpected ways.
Spider Girl is a lonely teen who has built up a fantasy life and is vulnerable to online predators, predators like her seedy teacher Don Wand. The self-styled White Prince is a noted member of the community but disliked by many around him, including the young man whose father's life he has destroyed, and the committee member who sees through his facade.
The individual stories are beautifully crafted but the way they work together is brilliant. I'm not sure whether to consider it a novel, or an anthology, either way it is a clever work. The author has peeled back the respectable veneer of a religious small town and picked some fascinating characters to introduce to the reader. This piece of fairly dark contemporary fiction really engaged me and for anyone who likes short stories and fiction with a hint of noir I would highly recommend this book.
Format: E-book, review copy (only available in paperback at present)
My Rating: 5*