Flash Fiction Stories for the Religiously Inclined

Fiction - Anthology
182 Pages
Reviewed on 06/14/2021
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Author Biography

Theodore Jerome (Ted) Cohen is an award-winning author who has published more than ten novels--all but one of them mystery/thrillers--two books of short stories, and eight flash-fiction anthologies. He also writes illustrated storybooks for children (K-3) in the series Stories for the Early Years as well as Young Adult (YA) novels under the pen name "Alyssa Devine." During the course of his 45-year career he worked as an engineer, scientist, CBS Radio Station News Service (RSNS) commentator, private investigator, and Antarctic explorer. What he's been able to do with his background is mix fiction with reality in ways that even his family and friends have been unable to unravel!

Dr. Cohen's writings (he holds three degrees in the physical sciences) have received the highest reviews from Feathered Quill, Hollywood Book Reviews, Kirkus Discoveries, Pacific Book Review, Reader Views, and Readers' Favorite, among others, with many of his books recognized for their excellence through medals awarded by several of these same organizations following their annual book competitions. In 2017, for example, Readers' Favorite awarded Dr. Cohen's first short story anthology, The Road Less Taken: A Collection of Unusual Short Stories - Book 1, a Silver Medal while the National Association of Book Entrepreneurs (NABE) awarded the same book its Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for Best in Category: Short Stories. The NABE also awarded Dr. Cohen's collection, Creative Ink, Flashy Fiction: Flash Fiction Anthology - Book 3, its Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for Best in Category: Anthology - Winter, 2018.

    Book Review

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!

Vincent Dublado

Throughout the years, I have been an avid consumer of books, both fiction and nonfiction, and have read a considerable number of short fiction anthologies. Theodore Jerome Cohen’s Flash Fiction Stories for the Religiously Inclined shows how fiction that deals with themes of faith and spirituality will never grow old, and it will always have a strong following. Cohen offers selected tales from his treasure chest of flash fiction as well as from his two short story anthologies. The title seems limiting, as it appears to appeal only to the religiously inclined. But Cohen (aka Alyssa Devine) has written tales that can draw the attention of anyone who has a penchant for good stories. Most of his work here is only 250 words or fewer. Essence captured in brevity is what you’ll get.

Cohen’s work in this volume may well be described as narrative therapy. With its religious/spiritual theme applied to a personal relationship with God, such personal identity stories enable you to reflect and make you feel that you have been in a similar situation—a sort of recollection that perpetuates your need for spiritual nourishment. Some of the stories are metaphysical, while others are downright empirical. Consider the story Unforgiven, which is about a young man’s promise to his late veteran father to represent him in reconnecting with his World War II buddies. As you read the conversations, deconstruct the situation, and explore the unique ending, it gives you that reassuring feeling and renews your faith in humanity, if not in God. I am not a religious person, but Flash Fiction Stories for the Religiously Inclined convinces me that faith, despite its mysterious ways, is a great thing to have. Whether you are religious or not, these tales will stir something in your heart and soul that will make you feel good.

Astrid Iustulin

If you like short stories and want to spend a few pleasant hours in the company of a witty and intelligent book, then Flash Fiction Stories for the Religiously Inclined by Theodore Jerome Cohen (and his pen name, Alyssa Devine) is the right read for you. With a very original style, Cohen (and Divine) have put together some exciting stories which now make you think, now make you smile. As the title suggests, this book presents 47 short stories inspired by as many images, with characters who, in various ways, have a religious inclination. This means that the reader will find situations related to sacred rites, such as weddings, funerals, and first communions, although the settings of the stories are extremely varied.

Flash Fiction Stories for the Religiously Inclined is not the first Cohen/Devine book I have read, and this, like the others, left a positive impression on me. What I liked the most is the spirit of each story, which is to say, of the entire book. While not all the stories have a happy ending (like The Death of Madam Ophelia) and others have a bitter flavor (I think especially of Unforgiven), Cohen/Devine writes brilliantly. You regret that some of the stories are very short, sometimes less than a page long. This, however, is precisely the reason why you appreciate Cohen's bon mots, especially if they are at the end of the story (as in Zipper). Overall, Flash Fiction Stories for the Religiously Inclined is a wonderful book that I am sure will thrill anyone who decides to read it.