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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Flash fiction is a work of extreme brevity which, believe it or not, goes back a long way in history, all the way back to prehistory and the telling of the great fables that were passed on from one generation to the next. Flash fiction includes the six-word story, the dribble at 50 words, the drabble at 100 words, sudden fiction at 750 words, and twitterature, which is not much longer than the six-word story. Hemingway was the master of flash fiction, but there may be a new master, or perhaps I should say mistress, of flash fiction as we explore a concise volume of 200 little vignettes of life in a flash, mystery and romance in a few short sentences, deep thinking ideas and light humor, all with the eloquence of short story style: plot, characters and setting.
For example, there’s Noah’s passion for jigsaw puzzles magnified from the world’s largest puzzle, or so he thought at 32,000 pieces, to the study of geography and learning that the earth and its ever-moving continent pieces are really the largest jigsaw puzzle. Then, in three sentences, a frenzied sprint and the protagonist captures the prize, but it’s a Boxing Day sale, not a sports game. Another example is a short story written in reverse so that, unless you’re very clever at reading backwards, you have to hold it to the mirror to read it. And, in two sentences, we marvel with the narrator at the simple beauty of a tree and how we often fail to recognize beauty until the very end. Or, rather unique for this era, a story told in correspondence between two people, which is a bit of novelty in the age of quick texting and constant, monotonous use of acronyms.
Helen Keeling-Marston’s Two Hundred Very Short Stories was inspired by the author’s desire to read every night just before bed, and her frustration with falling asleep before she could pick up the thread of the previous night’s reading. The solution? Very short stories, or flash fiction. Just enough of a read to help the body unwind without initiating the frustration of not remembering what happened previously. A complete read in one bedtime reading – the perfect solution for the weary but passionate reader. And, she’s provided a collection of 200 stories, all of varying lengths and styles. Some are very thought-provoking; some of the really short stories lead the reader into the realms of their own imagination as they explore the 'what if' possibilities of a further developed plot. A great bedtime reading companion.