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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Afterword by Jeremy Bibaud is a compilation of original short stories that bring to life jobs people have held in history that will likely be viewed as outlandish through a modern lens but were important even if they were menial in their heyday. Bibaud weaves real-life work with fictional characters to create thought-provoking stories, some that veer into the deeply morose and others that are outright hilarious. In the story 'Chandler', an actual medieval wax custodian and candle crafter—a chandler—is transported to 2002 with a mission involving the Emmy Awards that do not go as well as he'd hoped. 'However, Replied the Universe' follows two leech collectors, Ronald and Dale, as they drum up medicinal leeches in the 1800s; a dangerous job made more so when Dale becomes a one-man Sodom and Gomorrah. All told, Bibaud delivers twelve incredible short stories that read independently of the others.
Afterword is so completely different from anything I have read before and the combination of normal, everyday people of the past performing work that is anything but normal and everyday is just perfect. Jeremy Bibaud writes with the skill of a seasoned author and the dark humor he imparts is twisted and morbid, intelligent and witty. My favorite is 'This Glorious Thought', where a 'sin-eater named James, whose role it is to eat a ritual meal off the body of a dead person so their sin passes from them to James, works his way through the sins of his village that is being ravaged by the plague. This is one of the more somber stories and, in my eyes, the most brilliant. The shocking end shows that even in the face of pain, loss, and horror, there is profound humanity in the one person who was viewed as the herald of wickedness. Beautiful. Unusual. Creative. Very highly recommended.