Fate and Fortune: A Collection of Short Stories by Nrupal Das

A collection of six short stories, Fate and Fortune is an engaging collection for all ages. The titles include Tea and Magic, Catch Me If You Can!, Knock on My Doors, A Novel Comes Knocking, Lime Diary, Babe on A Beach. 

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Title: Fate and Fortune: A Collection of Short Stories

Author: Nrupal Das

Publisher: Diffon ePress

Date of Publication: 30 September 2017

Rating: 3.7/5

fate

A collection of six short stories, Fate and Fortune is an engaging collection for all ages. The titles include Tea and Magic, Catch Me If You Can!, Knock on My Doors, A Novel Comes Knocking, Lime Diary, Babe on A Beach. 

The book begins with the story of a newly widowed lady waiting anxiously for her son to return home while talking to her neighbour Sudha Aunty in Tea and Magic. Over a cup of tea, their conversation leads to the revelation that the lady had been a victim of domestic violence for several years but it was on one fateful evening that Sudha Aunty heard her screams and rescued this frail neighbour. Ever since Sudha Aunty is a motherly figure to the lady. But things are never so simple and magic unlike illusion is never free of the dark.

Catch Me If You Can is the story of a lazy horse who grows up to be a race horse called Rome lovingly by the others. He is a swift stallion and the story is an interesting monologue on his behalf about his childhood, his human masters, training sessions and his other horse friends. Compared to the other stories it is rather light and comical.

Ghosts haunt A Knock at My Door as a man relates the story of the captivating Madhupur girl Annapurna and the series of unfortunate events that surrounded her marital life ending in the tragic deaths of her husband and son. She is termed as a witch by the villagers and the listener is startled with the news sudden death. It is dark and interesting.

A novel arrives at the door of a young boy and it surprisingly reveals every incident that is to happen in his life in A Novel Comes Knocking. Nothing happens otherwise and the novel relates very closely to the people in his life too.

In another story, Suman’s diary entries are published by a friend who has been looking for her and has also filed a missing person report. Suman had named it the Lime Diary out of the belief that it will bring her to the limelight. Repetitive patterns of events are constantly noted in the diary particularly the stains of blood found frequently on the kitchen floor, slab or on the switch board but CCTV cameras don’t record anything unfamiliar. Whose blood is it then?

The book ends with a light story of a couple Sid and Shruti who are holidaying on the beach and find their swimwear clad photos all over the internet and in the news the next morning. This high profile couple find it extremely hard to keep things out of public eye while Sid regrets not making things known to the public earlier to save themselves from this scandal. It is Shruti’s wit and openness that helps sort things out later giving the story a fruitful ending.

Above all what really sums up this short compendium is the book’s simple yet thoughtful cover. It is a dice that shows three sides with the words live, die and run written on it. These three words aptly summarise the ethos of the stories and the variety provided in the collection. The stories are full of emotions, quite refreshing and may at times feel very much like short films.

Cold Plate Special by Rob Widdicombe

Though subtle at times, the humour is sarcastic and eccentric leaving the reader in splits.

Title: Cold Plate Special

Author: Rob Widdicombe

Publisher: Saltimbanque Books

Date of Publication: 28 July 2017

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 5/5

A student’s dreams of entering law school to become a master ‘Zinger’ leaves him a ‘Zingee’ in the middle of psychotic events.

Jarvis wants to be a zinger-lawyer so that he can mince words and hurl them at other culprits who deserve to be grilled. His greatest obsession is to be able to answer back to others. But this tongue tied lad can barely retaliate verbally let alone even think up responses on his feet. Initially, it seems like a baseless reason that may possibly motivate someone to become a lawyer. He also shows murderous instincts. He mentions all those he wants to kill and the various ways of murder that he’s chalked out in his mind already. Ironically, he’s contemplating murder just after being released from rehab. Far from recovering he has visions about how to murder Motorcar. Motorcar, who?

The narrative is highly descriptive and many minute details convey the entire story while maintaining every bit of the suspense. The imagery is filled with gross and drastic descriptions to the extent that at times it gets almost hilarious at how hysterical and expressive the narrator can be. Humour is an integral part of the plot and is used in varying doses. Though subtle at times, the humour is sarcastic and eccentric leaving the reader in splits.

Jarvis wants justice like that of the medieval times where revenge was healthy. The story gets more and more dramatic with each page. It evokes several emotions of horror and shock that strive to maintain the fear factor. The narrator is highly animated. After his boss questions him about his invoices he’s fired for whiling away his time in office. The emotions are drastic and Jarvis can get from strange to excessively weird with his expressions about situations. He notes down almost every single thought that crosses his mind and most of it is exasperation spelt out loud. Then he has a complete nervous meltdown.

The eye for detail makes the narrative more tantalizing as it may seem to be adding excessive information but it only helps build the plot and take it to a whole different level of exhilaration. Being fired from work leads to a series of unforeseen happenings that make up the maddened narrative of the novel. The events lead to an almost psychic downturn which gets represented in his constant desires to kill some others and himself. With funny encounters with his cousin Shred and being beaten up by a bunch of hippies, the story turns wild with never ending twists. All of the craziness and recklessness only reveals a deep hurt in his childhood that he keeps reeling back into. It is the suffering in the hands of a pedophile one summer camp. Jarvis has been through some haunting and pathetic practices; experienced by a brittle mind in “a zone of cosmic confusion” that lead to his derailed thought process. The story brings out the idea that a molestation is an awful experience for a child but they do not have the vocabulary or the understanding of the experience to put it into proper explainable words. The innocence within the child’s mind cannot process the event but can feel its grave nature. Yet, he can do little to have justice. He fumes on the inside and grows worse. He fails to catch his molester’s real name. The story brings out the message that after an abusive episode it is too difficult to get back to normal and act as though nothing ever happened. Forgiving isn’t an option and revenge seems the only legitimate thing to ask for.

The novel gets denser as several turns lead to newer unexpected events with Jarvis barely realising how much he gets caught down in his own depressive sorrows. What is worth noting is that male child abuse is still not understood by the majority to the extent that many may not even know of its existence. Most of his friends can sympathise with him but only few can empathise. His rehab does not help much either.

So is a face to face confrontation with his perpetrator the only way out of his personal mess?

Despite the constant doses of coffee taken by Jarvis, the novel does not require any caffeine to keep readers wide awake throughout the fast paced narrative. This thrilling book must be read ear to ear and will entangle readers in its web of eventful episodes making it difficult to be put down till the last page. Widdicombe is off to a promising start in this debut novel. However, the offbeats mentions about the Illuminati and the status of Jarvis’ relationship with Carly remain unclear till the end raising a lot of questions unanswered.

Psychic, dark comic thriller fluctuating between walking and running in a farrago of startling trials within a backdrop of a haunting coffee ‘beige.’

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!