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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
Flash Fiction for the Religiously Inclined by Theodore Jerome Cohen and his pseudonym Alyssa Devine is a collection of very short pieces submitted to a flash fiction contest. In the competition, the writer is prompted by a photograph and a sentence to be used somewhere in the writing. Mr. Cohen, who says his work “mixes fiction with reality in ways that even his family and friends have been able to unravel,” has organized these pieces around a religious theme, but the religious imagery is not intended to be inspirational or recruiting. Many deal only with spiritual subject matter such as nuns, funerals, war-devastated cathedrals, primitive beliefs, angels, weddings, and life after death. The general tone is of comic irony, but the first in this presentation is a deeply touching story of a man’s father’s death in World War II.
I enjoy the format Mr. Cohen uses. It’s a pleasure to view the picture, read the caption, first imagine what my response would be, and then read Mr. Cohen’s. His is always more imaginative than mine, and always brilliantly written. The prompt could be an aged Indian stranding by an Arizona roadside; a little girl recalling her deceased mommy while struggling with her coat zipper; an angel who must become a seductress to save a young man; a woman holding a child, causing chaos during a wedding; a sarcastic Russian bride at her wedding reception; an end-of-the-world San Diego earthquake—I could go on. There are 47 of these outstandingly sketched vignettes, each one vividly related to the photograph and caption. Each piece in Flash Fiction for the Religiously Inclined by Theodore Jerome Cohen will make you ponder as you try to “unravel” how the “fiction mixes with reality.” Such ambiguity is one of the greatest pleasures of fine art. Many thanks, Mr. Cohen!