Reviewed by Neil A White for Readers' Favorite
Assumptions and Other Stories is the latest offering from award-winning novelist James Mulhern. Five of the seven short stories revolve around Molly Bonamici and her travails through her formative years and into adulthood. Two additional stories book-end Molly’s adventures, yet all contain that sly, quirky style of Mr. Mulhern’s that slides from the humorous to the macabre at the turn of a page. Mr. Mulhern’s writing displays all of the storytelling prowess of the contemporary Irish masters, yet manages to blend it in exquisitely with the use of modern day American settings.
For me, the stand-out story was Drenched to the Bone. The story of a young teacher struggling to come to terms with divorce, his failings, and a classroom full of hellions to whom he is valiantly trying to impart some useful knowledge, the results of which vary from hilarious, to life-threatening, to soul-searching within the space of 14 pages. It will have every school teacher in America saying, “Yep, that about sums it up.”
The adventures of Molly, from Boston to South Florida, also follow a common thread; the questioning of what is right and wrong, and the role religion plays in the lives of the characters. Along the way, Molly finds a unique way to get even with a roommate, has an interesting encounter with a psychic, and comes to understand the meaning of love from an elderly family friend that she once tormented. It is not often that I am thoroughly enthralled with a book, but Assumptions and Other Stories was a compelling read. My only complaint was that it was only 120 pages; I was yearning for more.