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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
Flash Fiction Stories on Life and Death by Theodore Jerome Cohen is an anthology of brilliantly composed short and longish pieces for a contest. Each story is inspired by a captioned photograph. The author compares them to M&Ms or peanuts in that the reader won’t be able to stop with only one. The analogy is apt. You simply can’t stop nibbling on these vignettes and musing about how incredibly well they work with the prompts. This is Mr. Cohen’s 18th volume of these flash fiction pieces, and it seems as inspired as the very first. Mr. Cohen writes exquisitely of human emotions, of life’s enigmas, of scenes and characters shaped in mere phrases and brief comments that leave this reader constantly startled at how much can be conveyed in so few words. And yes, like M&Ms (in my case kettle potato chips,) you simply cannot stop, even with the longer stories.
Let me mention a few that particularly engaged both my intellect and my heart as all great art must do. In the first piece, the son of a recently passed WWII veteran honors his father’s last wish to find his commander-sergeant of a village battle in which few survived. When found, the sergeant tells the deeply moving story of that battle while resting in a nursing home. In another story a Chilean military officer attends the funeral of a prostitute famous for dancing in red stilettoes. In another, a wife implores her husband not to jump off a bridge due to drug addiction—but whose? In “Mountain Pass,” a fellow employee informs a woman that a man she loves was killed in an auto accident in the Pyrenees. Then, there’s a group of George Harrison’s celebrity friends gathered in a hospital room as he is dying. In the final piece, “Gone Girl,” a husband cannot lose his guilt for having discounted the visible symptoms of his now deceased wife. Flash Fiction Stories on Life and Death by Theodore Jerome Cohen is superb literature and, like your favorite wine, you won’t be able to stop sipping.