Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016


Fiction - Short Story/Novela
507 Pages
Reviewed on 06/14/2017
Buy on Amazon

    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

“Everybody has a story” is a well-worn phrase. But how many of us, as we go about our busy lives, ever stop to think about the home life of that disabled boy carrying out groceries or rounding up the emptied shopping carts around the parking lot? Or what would we find if we could read the mind and heart of that circus side-show attraction, the tiny female dwarf in the cute polka-dot dress? Or how does the trucker, who kindly stops to help a near lifeless girl on the highway, feel when his good Samaritan gesture turns his life upside-down? These are just a handful of many everyday people whose stories would never be told if it wasn’t for writers like William H. Coles.

The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 is a magnificent collection of 31 short stories of varying lengths, two graphic novels, and one of his most popular novellas, Sister Carrie. And as we move from one story to another, the lives, hearts and souls of ordinary people like us are told in Coles’ straightforward, uncluttered style, where what people say and do to each other is more gripping and unforgettable than the most intricate plots ever written. What’s it like to be raised Amish and then dare to fall in love with someone outside the community? What’s it like to have to deliver a eulogy for those you can barely tolerate when their families are grieving the loss of their loved one? And who will give a stillborn child, seen as and thought of as a “thing,” some kind of burial? Stories such as these will keep us glued to The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016.

“Award-winning short stories of characters facing moral decisions that stretch their lives to mirror who they are and what they might become” is how this book has been described on Coles' website, “Story in Literary Fiction.” That sums The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 perfectly. As a reader, Coles’ collection has reminded me of why and how literary fiction differs from popular fiction. It’s a reminder of why, as students in the sixties, we studied writers like Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert and Emily Bronte: plot mattered but character mattered more. But on a personal note, as a writer, for me The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 has opened a whole new world of possibilities. I can no longer look at the drunk passed out in a doorway downtown, or listen to the irritated voice of a customer service advisor, or watch a now disfigured young woman with the voice of an angel on America’s Got Talent who was one of only two who survived a horrific plane crash without wanting to know their story. Better yet, I am inspired to write such stories one day, and can only hope to do so as beautifully as William H. Coles has written these. I have read many books on how to write, but I’ve learned much more about writing by reading The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016. Thank you, William H. Coles, for your inspiring and motivating stories that have touched this writer/reviewer so deeply.

Gisela Dixon

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is a collection of short stories about people from all walks of life and ages. This book is extremely well written and, along with short stories that comprise a big chunk of it, it also includes a novella about two people from different backgrounds and ethnicities and their mutual relationships, along with a couple of graphic novels. The short stories come with illustrations and each one stands independently of the others and can be read in any order.

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles is an excellent work of fiction. The writing style and craftsmanship are superb and the illustrations complement the stories beautifully. In fact, there were times when I didn’t particularly like a short story, but loved the illustration since it captured the essence of the story so well. The stories are written about people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and depict human emotions, fears, and joys quite accurately most of the time. I also liked the fact that the stories are not just set in contemporary times, but are also set in past decades and centuries. For example, while reading “Lost Papers,” I felt I was temporarily transported to that time period where fear and uncertainty were dominant, and the credit for this certainly goes to William for his vivid depictions of that era. For anyone who likes short stories, this is a great and well-crafted collection.

Ruffina Oserio

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles features 33 short stories that read like delicious desserts. A seventeen-year-old girl gets pregnant, the mother is disappointed and sends her to deliver her baby in a French convent with the hope of giving the baby away for adoption. The crippled child becomes the greatest gift of the girl’s life. Read about how the ills that touch the lives of others can provoke life-changing choices in us. Encounter the surgeon caught up in a moral dilemma to save or not to save his son after a failed attempt at murder which leaves him brain-dead. And there are a lot, lot, lot more surprises that readers will find in this selection of stories with a variety of themes and a wonderful assortment of characters.

When I started reading the Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016, it was with the intention of reading one story at a time, but it was irresistible, and I found myself going from story to story. William H. Coles seems to be a master of the art of the short story. Each story is composed to read like a miniskirt; short enough to provoke the reader’s curiosity and long enough to keep the essential hidden until the last moment. The stories are exciting, containing wonderful plot lines, complicated issues to deal with, and amazing characters. The author combines humor and wit with the art of the short story to bring a world of entertainment to readers. This is one of my best collections of short stories, after Langston Hughes.

Christian Sia

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is an exceptional compendium of 33 short stories, two graphic novels, and a novella, a collection that offers a wonderful literary treat, beautifully told and brimming with exquisite beauty. “The Gift” introduces the collection, and it features a family conflict developed around an unwanted pregnancy. When seventeen-year-old Catherine gets pregnant, her mother, Agnes, has a clear plan for her. “Agnes kept her plan simple. After the birth, far away, an immediate adoption was the only solution, and after the town no longer remembered or cared, Catherine could return to live out her penance.” But Catherine has her own plans as well. And the child, born without feet, will transform her life in ways no one could have imagined.

This is just a taste of what awaits the reader in this collection, for there is a variety of stories, each with a unique plot, a unique conflict driving it, and quite often readers are confronted with suspenseful situations. The stories are well-developed and crafted to keep the reader turning the pages. Some read like little gems, others like a refreshing drink. It is difficult not to notice the entertaining character of the stories, with well-developed characters that fit neatly into exciting settings. Readers will enjoy William H. Coles’ gift for style, his excellent prose, and his uncanny ability to lead readers into the inner workings of his characters’ minds. The stories have both psychological and emotional depth, are conflict driven, and masterfully plotted. Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 is both exciting and compelling in its originality and the illustrations add color to the overall reading experience.

Rabia Tanveer

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is a collection of short stories, graphic novels and a novella that all grapple with the idea of humanity, human errors, and how every human perceives a situation differently. Sometimes the stories are about counting your blessings and being happy with them, and sometimes the stories are about the trials and tests that humans have to go through. These stories are wholesome, entertaining and complete, giving you a fulfilling feeling. This book has a total of 33 short stories and all of them have their own characters, with their own flaws and their own wars to win.

I absolutely loved “The Necklace,” the story of a couple trying to find the rhythm of their relationship while they travel to India. They know how much they love each other, but they are uncertain about their future. However, tragedy befalls another couple; they realize how deep their feelings are for each other. I also loved the novella in which a pretty teenager falls in love with an Iranian boy, who may or may not be part of a terrorist attack. "The Dilemma” was pretty intense and emotional and I felt deeply for the characters.

All of these stories will give you a sense of satisfaction and that is thanks to the way they are written. Author William H. Coles did a wonderful job of creating realistic characters who could be anyone we see around us every day. I don’t think I can describe the way he writes; it is flawless, smooth, and very striking. These stories will speak to you on a personal level. The illustrations were simply awesome as well. All in all, this is a wonderful collection of stories that are perfect for people who simply love to read.