Scar Songs


Fiction - Short Story/Novela
138 Pages
Reviewed on 03/09/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

It was a nice change to tackle a collection of short stories like those written by W. Royce Adams in Scar Songs: Stories. Once I finished reading these nine tales featuring male protagonists, each one of whom engaged me psychologically and moved me emotionally, I found myself debating whether it’s harder for an author to write a novel or short story. My conclusion? Short stories…and here’s why. With no time for wasting words, or detailed descriptions and backstories to slow down the pace, W. Royce Adams gets us quickly inside his protagonists’ heads, hearts, and souls. If that sounds easy, it isn’t. Take the last story in this collection: Adams expertly captures exactly what is happening in an old professor’s head as he tries to stay focussed on the lesson he’s teaching. His mind wanders between analyzing his students’ appearances to undressing his female students while barely hearing answers to the questions he just asked.

In another story, one to which I immediately related, a son cannot bear to look upon the now-painted but lifeless face of his mother in the open casket. Why? He needs and prefers to remember his mother when they sailed together in his boat. She had a special place for him in her heart that his father didn’t. Then, there's the story about a husband struggling with his children’s request that he visit his ex-wife on her deathbed. He cannot find forgiveness for her failure to be honest with him about her past. Their marriage was a sham. But, now, in hindsight, was the fault all hers? Through story after story, W. Royce Adams invites us to examine ourselves through his characters. Regardless of our genders, backgrounds, and experiences, we can all relate to the universal themes Adams explores. Without wasting words, he somehow compresses his characters while epitomizing their true essence. This is excellent short story writing and recommended reading.

Pikasho Deka

Scar Songs is an enthralling collection of nine short stories by W. Royce Adams. All nine stories follow men from a myriad of different backgrounds facing traumatic events that change the course of their lives. A young employee at a grocery store catches a customer stealing from the establishment, only to be plagued by severe guilt after the act. A music critic tries his best to land an interview with a reclusive and legendary jazz musician, unexpectedly finding himself enlightened by the experience. Upon his oldest son's insistence, a divorced man visits his dying ex-wife, only to end up struggling with anger, regret, and resentment. After receiving news of a former colleague's death, a retired English college professor faces a difficult predicament; should he expose the misdeeds of his former colleague or let bygones be bygones?

W. Royce Adams tells captivating stories that showcase the frailties and flaws of humans and how the unexpected turns of life can catch us by surprise. Scar Songs is a book that you will love if you're interested in stories that explore the human condition through well-realized characters with layers of depth. Every story in this collection follows a distinct character from a different background who faces an event that turns his world upside down. Although I enjoyed every single tale, Thief Catcher and Getting Even are two of my favorites from the bunch. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and recommend it to others who love short stories that provoke introspection.

Ann Linus

Scar Songs: Stories by W. Royce Adams is a collection of short stories about everyday men who could have done better. In the first story, a teenager who works in a mall plays the part of a thief catcher, but as soon as the culprit, an elderly shoplifter, is apprehended, he regrets his role. In The Last Tequila Run, two friends empty one too many bottles of tequila and dare to skip the Mexican border station protocols, and beyond this reckless trip, there is a story of an odd pair. Music Messiah unravels a mysterious musician’s fall from grace to grass. In Getting Even, a man is accused of having an affair with his colleague’s wife, whom he barely knows. He plans to get even with his accuser, dead or alive.

Scar Songs by W. Royce Adams is an anthology of nine short stories, all of which evoke some type of melancholic emotion from nostalgia to regret, pain, and anger. This constant cloud of melancholy makes the title fitting, but it doesn’t overshadow other elements in the stories, like the engaging conversations between characters and their complex relationships. The stories are set in the mid-1900s and are all narrated by male protagonists. I like that Adams applies the narrative perspective across all the stories. The plots are simple but not straightforward, with plenty of flashbacks, and I liked this back-and-forth between the past and the present. This is a unique and thought-provoking collection and I enjoyed reading it. This is a mature book, so I recommend it to adult readers, especially lovers of short stories and psychological literature.