In the quiet of twilight, when everyone else was gone, I went out to
Dad’s garage behind the house. He was working on our old Ford Ltd.
Sitting on a stool
in from of his worktable, I posited, “Daddy?”
“Yes, baby?” He
responded while putting parts together. He’d tried teaching me
mechanics, but it didn’t take, leaving him so frustrated that he
yelled at me to go back inside and learn how to cook. I can’t cook
“Daddy, I need a
lock on my door.” The silence expanded to fill my head with his
“What the hell do
you need a lock for? You’re not locking me and your mother out of
that room. We pay the rent here. Whatever you’re hiding we’ll
find out anyways.” Holding the part, he dropped onto the creeper
and rolled under the car.
tired of Sam coming into my room without knocking. He comes in when
I’m dressing and won’t leave no matter how much I scream. I gotta
grab my clothes and go past him to dress in the bathroom.”
The creeper flew out
and Dad sat up, looking at me with his crazy eyes that scared me, but
I held my ground. “Are you serious?”
He stood up, wiped
his hands on a red rag, and paced the room, shouting, “That little
sonuvabitch! That little bastard! I didn’t raise no son of mine to
be a pervert. I didn’t raise him to be peeping at his sister.”
Daddy stopped, looked me straight in the eye, and asked, “He never
touched you, has he?”
“God, no! Ain’t
it enough that he’s looking at me? That he’s coming in my room
without permission?” I hugged myself and shivered, having not
thought of that possibility.
“Alright, baby, I
gotcha,” he reassured me as he looked for a lock in his tool box.
After picking up his drill, he left the garage, me following him
inside and down to my room. A simple latch lock went onto my door in
a few minutes. Daddy kissed my head and returned to his garage.
That evening, I was
reading in our downstairs family room when my brother got home from
his after school job. Daddy was waiting for him. Soon as the door
opened, he launched into him, reamed him out clean. He didn’t even
show up for dinner.
dressing the next morning, Sam’s voice boomed through my door, “You
awake in there, Serena?” A little chuckle turned into a BAM as he
hit the door that wouldn’t open. I stood quietly in front of my
closet, one leg in my pants, as he pounded the door and hollered to
be let in.
My journal is filled
with possibilities of what coulda happened without that little lock.
Believing she is a bad mother, Beth does not address her postpartum depression. After she and her siblings move their father into a care facility due to his deepening dementia, she volunteers to clean out their family home. Behind the padlocked door to their childhood playroom, Beth discovers her father’s mysterious paintings that seem to correspond to notes left by her mother, unlocking a family secret that may provide a connection with her mother and become her saving grace. Rimmer presents a complex family dynamic to which many could relate, and then explodes it with a secret so horrifying, it remained hidden for decades. Anyone who has discovered their family secret will definitely identify with the feelings of betrayal and questioning their identity. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the publisher Graydon House through NetGalley.
I am alone in a
crowded family these days, and that’s the worst feeling I’ve ever
experienced. Until these past few years, I had no idea that
loneliness is worse than sadness. I’ve come to realize that’s
because loneliness, by its very definition, cannot be shared.
there are four other souls in this house, but I am unreachably far
from any of them, even as I’m far too close to guarantee their
safety. Patrick said he’d be home by nine tonight, and I clung on
to that promise all day.
be home at nine, I tell myself. You won’t do anything crazy if
Patrick is here, so just hold on until nine.
should have known better than to rely on that man by now. It’s
11:55 p.m., and I have no idea where he is.
will be wanting a feed soon and I’m just so tired, I’m already
bracing myself—as if the sound of her cry will be the thing that
undoes me, instead of something I should be used to after four
children. I feel the fear of that cry in my very bones—a kind of
whole-body tension I can’t quite make sense of. When was the last
time I had more than a few hours’ sleep? Twenty-four hours a day I
am fixated on the terror that I will snap and hurt someone: Tim,
Ruth, Jeremy, Beth…or myself. I am a threat to my children’s
safety, but at the same time, their only protection from that very
have learned a hard lesson these past few years; the more difficult
life is, the louder your feelings become. On an ordinary day, I trust
facts more than feelings, but when the world feels like it’s
ending, it’s hard to distinguish where my thoughts are even
coming from. Is this fear grounded in reality, or is my mind playing
tricks on me again? There’s no way for me to be sure. Even the line
between imagination and reality has worn down and it’s now too thin
I think I will walk away before something bad happens, as if removing
myself from the equation would keep them all safe. But then Tim will
skin his knee and come running to me, as if a simple hug could take
all the world’s pain away. Or Jeremy will plant one of those sloppy
kisses on my cheek, and I am reminded that for better or worse, I am
his world. Ruth will slip my handbag over her shoulder as she follows
me around the house, trying to walk in my footsteps, because to her,
I seem like someone worth imitating. Or Beth will look up at me with
that gummy grin when I try to feed her, and my heart contracts with a
love that really does know no bounds.
moments remind me that everything changes, and that this cloud has
come and gone twice now, so if I just hang on, it will pass again. I
don’t feel hope yet, but I should know hope, because I’ve walked
this path before and even when the mountains and valleys seemed
insurmountable, I survived them.
constantly trying to talk myself around to calm, and sometimes, for
brief and beautiful moments, I do. But the hard, cold truth is that
every time the night comes, it seems blacker than it did before.
I’m teetering on the edge of something horrific.
the sound of my baby’s cry might just be the thing that breaks me
scared of so many things these days, but most of all now, I fear
Erin was born in Missouri and moved to the
East Coast in 2007. She holds an A.A.S in General Studies with an
emphasis in Police Science, a Certificate of Education from Germanna
Community College and a Bachelor’s of English, Linguistics, and
Communications from the University of Mary Washington. She enjoys
writing, acting, dabbling in the stock market and cryptocurrencies,
and playing instruments. An introvert to the core, Erin
self-identifies as a doughnut enthusiast and in her free time if
she’s not price shopping for lye, she enjoys long walks in dark
forests carrying her favorite shovel.
Tell me about
your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic
Most of the time I
write between phone conferences with various celebrities while I’m
traveling on my private jet. I find that it’s the optimal place to
write, up in the clouds, on my way to a tropical coast. Joking…
I can’t say that I
have a process. I write. That’s pretty much it—one word and then
next and the next. I never force myself to write; I don’t keep a
set schedule or judge myself on the plethora of days and times I
should be writing and I’m not.
On warm days
(spring, summer, early fall) I have an outdoor spot where I write. It
serves as fantastic inspiration, but I won’t say where it is.
As far as magical
spells go, the fairies keep stealing them. Every single time I
concoct a new one those thieving little jerks come along and take it
from me. So, I would be more than happy to divulge the spells, but I
no longer have them. Perhaps interview the fairies. They will tell
Walk me through
the publishing process as an editor of anthologies, from soliciting
submissions to marketing the final product.
I wouldn’t call
the publishing process ‘walking’. The better term would be
stumbling. It’s not an easy feat. Publishing an anthology would be
my excuse for turning to alcoholism. But really, I think it’s a
matter of being very clear on the submission call…VERY clear in
terms of what I’m looking for, what I expect in terms of
formatting, word count, content, etc. Doing this seems to help.
It’s working with
a large number of artists, all with different tastes, styles, and
trying to combine everything into a single volume; it can be fun and
challenging particularly because it is multi-genre. I’ve really
been fortunate to have worked with extremely talented authors and
poets which has helped make publishing both “Cocky-Tales” and
“Rejected” wonderful experiences.
Marketing is always
a tough one. I approach it a bit differently. I don’t do what they
call “link drop”. I’ve always worked to build a relationship
with my audience from participating in real-life events to going
Facebook Live, I appreciate everyone who takes time to leave a
comment or follow my page, and I enjoy interacting with them as much
as possible. When I market an anthology, I want my audience to also
get to know the authors here and there—bios are important to me. I
loved posting the rescue pet photos that a few of our authors had
Talk about your
support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?
I feel like I have a
larger support system online than in real life. Per the last
question, I’ve taken time to try my best to build genuine
relationships and express my appreciation because, wow(!), sometimes
the interaction blows my mind! I’ve made a number of great online
friends who are also authors or aspiring authors, and they are
In real life I
wouldn’t say I necessarily have ‘cheerleaders’. Although, I’m
not opposed to cheerleading uniforms (i.e. Dallas Cowboys…anyways,
that wasn’t the question. Was it?) I have a handful of friends,
and I think if I ever wanted to quit writing, they’d probably try
to talk me out of it, lol.
How does life
influence your writing and vice versa? Feel free to share anything
you want about When She Walked Away. Also, blatantly exploit this
opportunity to advertise all your freelance work.
I think every piece
of fiction is sourced from bits and pieces of reality. My life
influences my writing in significant ways. While the experiences
don’t exactly parallel, I think there’s parts of me in overall
situations or traits in characters. If it wasn’t personal on a
certain level, I wouldn’t write it.
When I write I also
find I’m discovering myself. Maybe not in the initial piece, but
once I am finished and I step back and see the complete picture, I
find something new within me that I hadn’t recognized. Art is cool
in that sense.
What do you love
most about your creativity?
It’s a good way to
escape. My creativity allows me to process situations in abstract and
escapist dynamics; otherwise, I don’t know that I could deal with
some things through the lens of “normal society”.
Tell us how you get acting roles! Don’t leave out the unglamorous,
hard work parts.
Luck? Accident? I
turned down my first role two times. I felt I was gracious and polite
about it, having recognized the opportunity to be involved in
something as big as Netflix, but it wasn’t where I thought I wanted
to go in life. Finally, I ended up taking it.
After that, I
decided I’d do some background roles. I only ever meant to stand in
the background as ‘popcorn eating patron number 137’, but at my
second job which was “Unmasked”, the director pulled me and gave
me a speaking role. Then and there I made an important decision:
Nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t scare the hell out of me.
Acting is practice,
practice, practice…it’s investing time and finances into the
craft. It’s driving to audition after audition, most are spur of
the moment. It’s coming home from the gym, sweaty, at ten o’
clock at night, changing my shirt, putting on makeup, fixing my hair,
and self-taping an audition or several.
after rejection, and sometimes you don’t even hear that “no”.
What I do is submit and move on. Dwelling and checking email every
second of the day is like concrete. It holds you back. Submit, move
on, move forward, let go, because if it is meant to be, it’ll
happen. And when I do hear a “yes” (YES!) it is so worth it, the
entire process is worth it.
Journalist Rory Garcia struggles in her relationship and her career, seeking stability in both. On her way to cover a protest, she is thwarted by roadblocks, yet she finds herself investing in a story that calls to her despite her skepticism of its veracity. Kate and Ian return in their friend Dee’s tale to Rory of their time-bending romance, as they make their way to their daughter Hope’s graduation, valedictorian of a special class, those born on or close to 9/11. Impellizzeri moves her characters in and out of time and dimensions and lives carefully and credibly, so that by the end, Dear Reader is fully satisfied by not only the romance at the crux of the tale, but by all the connections and possibilities. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the author for an honest review. Although I was a bit confused throughout the story, the ending pulled it all together beautifully and left me with a book hangover.
Gabriella, aka Gabriel, dashed through the alleys and over fences, easily evading the militia. She prised the top off the faux ammo urn, the sign behind it proclaiming it the property of the Fortnite Militia. Inside she shirked the clothes off and whispered the spell. The mercenaries jerked off the lid and peered inside, seeing nothing at first in the darkness. They turned aside and inspected the lid. Gabriella pulled herself out of the urn and slowly backed away, as quietly as possible, completely naked and invisible. Again, the soldiers looked in, and this time, they saw the shed clothing. Snatching up the shirt and pants, they guffawed at the audacity of the young man to think he could escape them, and yet they were at a loss to explain returning with only his clothes and an unbelievable story.
After escaping an abusive husband of an arranged marriage, Lakshmi has curated a niche life as a henna artist and herbalist, carefully balancing her needs with the desires of her wealthy, high caste clients. Until…her ex-husband brings to her a sister Lakshmi didn’t know existed, along with the information that both of their parents are dead. A sister who can topple her meticulously constructed life, simply by being her naive, adventurous self. Joshi has created a picture of a precarious position within society that is specific to someone who provides a service that’s both decorative and healing, desired for its aesthetics and cultural significance. Although accepted into higher society, Lakshmi is still considered a servant to the most influential of her clients, and thereby afforded no protection against her sister’s impetuous actions. Not only has the author provided a compelling tale, but she has included a glossary of hindi words and a history of henna artistry. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this beautiful novel from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley.
State of Uttar Pradesh, India
feet step lightly on the hard earth, calloused soles insensible to
the tiny pebbles and caked mud along the riverbank. On her head she
balances a mutki,
the same earthenware jug she uses to carry water from the well every
day. Today, instead of water, the girl is carrying everything she
owns: a second petticoat and blouse, her mother’s wedding sari, The
Tales of Krishna
her father used to read to her—the pages fabric-soft from years of
handling—and the letter that arrived from Jaipur earlier this
she hears the voices of the village women in the distance, the girl
hesitates. The gossip-eaters are chatting, telling stories, laughing,
as they wash saris, vests, petticoats and dhotis.
But when they spot her, she knows they will stop to stare or spit at
the ground, imploring God to protect them from the Bad Luck Girl. She
reminds herself of the letter, safe inside the mutki,
and thinks: Let
them. It will be the last time.
the women were haranguing the Headman: why
is the Bad Luck Girl still living in the schoolteacher’s hut when
we need it for the new schoolmaster?
Afraid to make a sound for fear they would come inside and pull her
out by her hair, the girl had remained perfectly still within the
four mud walls. There was no one to protect her now. Last week, her
mother’s body had been burned along with the bones of other dead
animals, the funeral pyre of the poor. Her father, the former
schoolteacher, had abandoned them six months ago, and, shortly after,
he drowned in a shallow pool of water along the riverbank, so drunk
he likely hadn’t felt the sting of death.
day for the past week, the girl had lay in wait on the outskirts of
the village for the postman, who cycled in sporadically from the
neighboring village. This morning, as soon as she spotted him, she
darted out from her hiding place, startling him, and asked if there
were any letters for her family. He had frowned and bit his cheek,
his rheumy eyes considering her through his thick glasses. She could
tell he felt sorry for her, but he was also peeved—she was asking
for something only the Headman should receive. But she held his gaze
without blinking. When he finally handed over the thick onionskin
envelope addressed to her parents, he did so hastily, avoiding her
eyes and pedaling away as quickly as he could.
standing tall, her shoulders back, she strolls past the women at the
riverbank. They glare at her. She can feel her heart flutter wildly
in her breast, but she passes, straight as sugar cane, mutki
on her head, as if she is going to the farmers well, two miles
farther from the village, the only well she is allowed to use.
gossip-eaters no longer whisper but shout to one another:
goes the Bad Luck Girl! The year she was born, locusts ate the wheat!
Her older sister deserted her husband, never to be seen again!
Shameless! That same year her mother went blind! And her father
turned to drink! Disgraceful! Even the girl’s coloring is suspect.
have blue eyes. Does she even belong to us? To this village?
girl has often wondered about this older sister they talk about. The
one whose face she sees only as a shadow in her dreams, whose
existence her parents have never acknowledged. The gossip-eaters say
she left the village thirteen years ago. Why? Where did she go? How
did she escape a place where the gossip-eaters watch your every move?
Did she leave in the dead of night when the cows and goats were
asleep? They say she stole money, but no one in the village has any
money. How did she feed herself? Some say she dressed as a man so she
wouldn’t be stopped on the road. Others say she ran off with a
circus boy and was living as a nautch
girl, dancing in the Pleasure District miles away in Agra.
days ago, old man Munchi with the game leg—her only friend in the
village—warned her that if she didn’t vacate her hut, the Headman
would insist she marry a widowed farmer or demand she leave the
is nothing here for you now,” Munchiji had said. But how could she
leave—a thirteen-year-old orphan girl with no family or money?
said, “Have courage, bheti.” He told her where to find her
brother-in-law, the husband her older sister had abandoned all those
years ago, in a nearby village. Perhaps he could help her find her
can’t I stay with you?”she
would not be proper,”the
gently. He made his living painting images on the skeletons of peepal
console her, he’d given her a painting. Angry, she’d almost
thrown it back at him until she saw that the image was of Lord
Krishna, feeding a mango to his consort Radha, her namesake. It was
the most beautiful gift she had ever received.
slows as she approaches the village threshing ground. Four yoked
bulls walk in circles around a large flat stone, grinding wheat.
who cares for the bulls, is sitting with his back against the hut,
asleep. Quietly, she hurries past him to the narrow path that leads
to Ganesh-ji’s temple. The shrine has a slender opening and,
inside, a statue of Lord Ganesh. Gifts are arranged around the
Elephant God’s feet: a young coconut, marigolds, a small pot of
ghee, slices of mango. A cone of sandalwood incense releases a
languid curl of smoke.
girl lays Munchiji’s
painting of Krishna in front of Ganesh-ji,
the Remover of All Obstacles, and begs him to remove the curse of The
Bad Luck Girl.
the time she reaches her brother-in-law’s village ten miles to the
West, it is late afternoon and the sun has moved closer to the
horizon. She is sweating through her cotton blouse. Her feet and
ankles are dusty; her mouth dry.
is cautious, entering the village. She crouches in shrubs and hides
behind trees. She knows an alone girl will not be treated kindly. She
searches for a man who looks like the one Munchiji described.
sees him. There. Squatting under the banyan tree, facing her. Her
has thick, oily, coal-black hair. A long, bumpy scar snakes from his
bottom lip to his chin. He is not young but neither is he old. His
is spotted with curry and his dhoti
stained with dust.
she notices the woman squatting in the dirt in front of the man. She
is supporting her elbow with one hand, her forearm dangling at an
unnatural angle. Her head is completely covered with her pallu,
and she is talking to the man in a quiet whisper. Radha watches,
wondering if her brother-in-law has taken another wife.
picks up a small stone and throws it at him. She misses. The second
time, she hits him in the thigh, but he merely flicks his hand, as if
swatting away an insect. He is listening intently to the woman. Radha
throws more pebbles, managing to hit him several times. At last, he
lifts his head and looks around him.
steps into the clearing so he can see her.
eyes widen, as if he is looking at a ghost. He says, “Lakshmi?”
Alka Joshi is a graduate of Stanford University and received her M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts. She has worked as an advertising copywriter, a marketing consultant, and an illustrator. Alka was born in India, in the state of Rajasthan. Her family came to the United States when she was nine, and she now lives on California’s Monterey Peninsula with her husband and two misbehaving pups. The Henna Artist is her first novel. Visit her website and blog at thehennaartist.com
Annie has had it with people, declaring that she is accepting no new people into her life after her fiance moved to Paris to find himself, her career stalled due to a sexual harassment incident, and her closest friends have become “concerned.” Told in epistolary style through Annie’s journal and email correspondence, Dear Reader is privy to Annie’s private thoughts—her frustrations and confusions—as she stumbles into new friendships despite her declaration. Pagán infuses humor into the story as Annie faces challenging decisions. Fans of Ann Garvin and Sonali Dev will appreciate Pagán’s delightfully flawed characters and realistic storyline which offers no clear-cut answers to life’s hard questions. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this wonderful novel by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley for an honest review.
My name is Umair Mirxa. I live and write in Karachi, Pakistan. To be
a published author is a dream I have long held and cherished, and it
has finally, slowly come true over the past year or so. I have the
honour of being published in several international anthologies, but
there is much yet to achieve, including my first novel, and
hopefully, an epic fantasy series. More recently, I have taken up
drawing as a secondary creative outlet. When I am not writing, I
spend my time on Netflix, reading, and watching football as an
Arsenal FC fan.
me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations,
greatest and most ever-present inspiration for me is, and forever has
been, J.R.R. Tolkien. I read my favourite passages from The Lord of
the Rings whenever I’m stuck with my own writing or even generally
if and when something has me down. Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle, and Christopher Paolini are just a few of the
other authors who have inspired me.
don’t really work to a strict schedule unless faced with a looming
deadline. I do, however, make a point of writing every single day,
even if what I produce turns out to be spectacularly ridiculous
rubbish. If the muse is singing, I have been known to write for 14-16
hour sessions without food or sleep. There are, of course, plenty of
days when even a 100-word drabble seems like the most horrible chore.
I write digitally using a desktop PC, sitting at a desk which has a
notepad, a pen-holder, an ashtray, several mugs of coffee, and snacks
and smokes in a room which contains my bookshelf, a TV, a PS4, plenty
of light, and a couple of extremely comfortable leather sofas.
me through your publishing process from final draft to final product,
including services hired as a self-published author, and marketing.
I have been published in nearly three dozen anthologies recently, I
have yet to self-publish a book. Once it is ready, and hopefully the
day is not too far off, I plan on seeking out a couple of author
friends to beta-read the final draft, and then upload the final
product to print-on-demand platforms like Amazon and Lulu. I am lucky
enough to have professional experience as a graphic designer and a
digital marketer, thus eliminating the need for hired services. I
hope to create a decent cover myself, and I will definitely be doing
my own marketing, at least for a while yet.
about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest
feel I have been truly blessed when it comes to having a support
system as a writer. My wife does everything possible to facilitate my
process and schedule, and has been the greatest, most constant source
of motivation and encouragement. My mother, both sisters, brother,
mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law and even their husbands have all
cheered and spurred me on, and I have the greatest group of friends a
guy can ask for in my corner, always. They have supported me,
encouraged me, chastised me when necessary, and contributed ideas and
advice for my stories.
and most certainly not the least, I have been incredibly fortunate to
have a rather remarkable group of author and publisher friends online
who have beta-read my work with honest feedback, shown me submissions
opportunities, encouraged me to write and submit, and given me
excellent advice not only for writing but for life as well. They
include, and I apologize in advance if I fail to mention someone I
should, authors such as Steve Carr, Shawn Klimek, David Bowmore,
Bruce Rowe, Mark Kuglin, Patt O’Neil, Mehreen Ahmed, Pavla
Chandler, Aditya Deshmukh, Nerisha Kemraj, Ximena Escobar, Kelli J
Gavin, Arabella Davis, and Dawn DeBraal, and publishers/editors Grant
Hudson, Dean Kershaw, Zoey Xolton, Madeline L. Stout, and Stacey
does life influence your writing and vice versa?
every way possible, I imagine. For most of my life, reading fantasy
stories has been a way of escape, and now I write them myself, more
often than not, for the very same reason. Yet no matter how fantastic
a landscape I portray or how outlandish my characters, the essence of
my own personal experiences permeates all of my writing. My
characters, therefore, and much like I do myself, will generally hate
racism and discrimination in any form with a vengeance, and they’ll
tend to be quiet and introverted, with only a small group of close
friends. They will have experienced loss and adversity, will enjoy
books and food and travel, music and solitude, and the all the simple
pleasures of life.
is perhaps the greatest lesson taught to me by the art and practice
of writing. Too often, we complicate our lives beyond reason by
chasing after material and financial gain at the cost of all that is
good and pure in our time on Earth.
do you love most about your creativity?
ability to bring to life characters and things and places, and entire
worlds which I can visit and explore at leisure. To be able to have
conversations with people I would never actually meet, to give them
lives and loves, experiences and friendships. To dream of a world
which has never been and might never come to be but still be able to
envision and set stories within, and then to share them with the
world that is.
love how my creativity means I am never, ever bored and can
comfortably be alone for days, even weeks on end if necessary. I
enjoy discovering potential stories when I’m out at a restaurant,
mall or park, and can create characters of the people I see and meet.
More recently, since I have taken up drawing, there is the additional
joy of studying light and shadows, form and shape and perspective,
and then to try and apply all of it to a blank canvas.
importantly perhaps, and I know all authors crave an audience, but I
absolutely love when someone tells me they enjoyed reading one of my
stories. It is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I believe, when
your work is the source of joy for another.
Extra: Write a 50-word story right here, right now!
Brynhildr withdrew her sword
from the fallen warrior’s chest, swayed, and collapsed herself.
Slowly, the dark descended, and she felt herself ascending. Strong
arms around her. A gentle caress. The weight, the pain, the fear. All
of it, gone.
opened her eyes, and with a smile walked into Valhalla.
Daniel Green finds purpose in secretly designing and creating crop circles within a secret organization who have field agents across the country. On his significant fifteenth crop circle, he feels drawn to the family of the farmer who hired him, and his life may just find another purpose. Boyce carefully presents the process of designing and making the crop circles, delving into the psyches of those who choose to do this work, and offering very human reasons for their hire. I received a copy of this wonderful story from the author’s agent Eric Smith for an honest review, and I highly recommend this book.
Pedro’s life on his family farm turns into a nightmare when guerrillas execute his father and banish his mother from their home. Vowing revenge, he joins the Autodefensas, a paramilitary group fighting the guerrillas, discreetly alongside the state military, and inculcates himself into hierarchical politics toward his hidden agenda of vengeance. Young represents a no-win situation for a teenage boy in a village that’s essentially a war-zone based on greed disguised as ideology. The author writes from a well-researched position of direct observation and interviews with real-life child soldiers, though the perspective must remain that of a white westerner. Young co-founded a foundation to rehabilitate and resocialize former child soldiers, using his residence in Bogota as headquarters and tithing royalties from this novel to the foundation. Read about his history and connections here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/24214.Rusty_Young. As a novel, this is a compelling story of terror, self-redemption, romance, and familial obligations, evoking awareness of these child soldiers. I received a digital copy of this well-written story from the publisher Bantam through NetGalley.