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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
One perfect word quickly comes to mind when trying to distill the effect of Theodore Jerome Cohen’s collection of short (truly short) stories in The Road Less Taken. The word is: Gripping. And I do not use that word lightly. I mean, utterly, sometimes devastatingly, gripping. Almost in the literal sense that these narratives – some more like vignettes - reach out to grasp your attention and your mind and threaten to pull your body deep inside their imaginative but all too physical reality. The brief nature of each story works to its advantage, as if one is given a tantalizing but gripping – there’s that inevitable adjective again – glimpse into a moment so intense and so fraught with consequence and pregnant with meaning, usually historical, one wants (but also fears) to hang around just to see the future outcome.
In The Road Less Taken, Theodore Jerome Cohen gives fair warning that truth and fiction are woven together closely, too closely for one to pick apart. Although this in large part explains the potency of these momentary glimpses into the past, it is Dr. Cohen’s impeccable writing skills that give to them such a ... you know the word by now ... quality. One might be sharing an old friend’s revelation of meeting secretly at night, on a ship, with the three allied leaders of WWII where the presumably well-known friend startlingly turns out to offer the sole solution to the travesties caused by German U-boats, or one might be witnessing purely through a diary’s late-to-come translation the dissolution of a young girl’s mind. The feeling throughout this profound book is one of extremely personal secrets, with major historical importance much too long withheld, suddenly exposed. Reading Dr. Cohen’s stories is a heady experience. And utterly, you know, gripping.