Eight - Fantastical Tales From Here, There & Everywhere by Poornima Manco
Genre: Fantasy, Magic Realism, Short Stories
I’ve always been a fan of short stories. When a fellow reviewer recommended this book, I needed no further nudge to grab a copy.
Eight, as the title suggests, is a collection of eight short stories from eight countries around the world. All stories are written by the same author, Poornima Manco.
The blurb asks questions as a way to describe the book. And therein lay the answer. With mythical creatures, ghosts, goddesses, and more, the book blurs the lines between real, surreal, and fantastical. What happens when a presence from the other world decides to step in and help the characters in each story?
Intriguing, isn’t it?
The book starts with a bang as it opens to a scene in The Invisible Suitcase. The story is set in France. Ottilie and her cat (familiar?) Minou set up a café on Valentine's Day. However, not everyone can see the café. It attracts only those looking for love (consciously or subconsciously). When Minou zeros on Elodie, Ottilie knows what has to be done.
The story goes a little back and forth, giving us just information to keep us hooked. It’s a bittersweet story with great potential to become a novelette or a novella. The desserts in the story made me drool. If only readers could eat straight from the books they read. Sigh!
Osterhase or Easter Bunny is set in Germany. A nine-year-old Stefan has a (not-so) chance encounter with the Easter Bunny. It sets the track for further meetings that span Stefan’s life. Each time he needs support and doesn’t know it, the Easter Bunny steps in to take up the role. The story has love, loss, pain, and enough happiness to end in contentment.
The Butterfly Effect is set in Argentina. Imagine a girl with Tango in her blood swearing not to dance because of her mother. Knowing that her mother abandoned her is never easy, but Mariposa has a good life until a tragedy strikes, taking away her leg. She gets a prosthetic leg, which somehow seems to have a mind of its own. Why does the prosthetic leg love Tango?
The story is descriptive, vivid, and beautiful. The ending was a little too abrupt (the author says she wanted to keep the stories within the same word limits). Not my favorite, but definitely a story with potential for expansion.
New Year, New You belongs to Egypt and follows the story of a Pharaoh’s slave. The story is in the second-person narration, where the reader has to take the role of the other character. The narration tries to keep you guessing the past while adding bits to the present.
While the technique is a good one, there’s always a risk of stretching things a little too much. Since I could guess the outcome, I ended up skimming halfway through the story. This one is probably one of the weakest in the book.
Idol is set in South Korea, showing the behind-the-scenes of K-Pop and how the artists are trained. Competition is fierce, and the glitz and glamour hide some dark, brutal truths the world doesn’t care about.
I love how the story progresses. Heejin’s character development is beautiful. One of the best stories in the book.
Meet Alex Wang, a man who wants The Perfect Wife. Set in Hong Kong, the story takes us through the life of Alex Wang, who became a formidable businessman with an empire to be proud of. However, he is fifty-something and has recently divorced his third wife. He’s sick of not finding everything in one woman. All three of his previous wife had something to give him, and wouldn’t it be nice to have the best of everyone in one person? What if that wife can be created in the lab?
The story is a social drama with sci-fi blended into the track. I gave a small hurray at the ending. It gave me exactly what I was hoping for..
Welcome to India during the famous festival Diwali (Deepavali). Lala Lakshmi is the story of Lakshmi Chand, a generational sweetshop owner. The author called it a tribute to A Christmas Carol by Dickens. You can guess the rest.
The story unfolds at a steady pace and has itsy bitsy bits of humor laced with a good dose of a reality check. I can’t remember where I’ve seen something (another desi version) on similar lines. But that's not surprising since the theme has been used countless times.
The book ends with a story from the USA. A Thank You Would Be Nice is about Elaine, or rather, the bits she wants to share with us. At sixty plus, being a flight purser sure doesn’t feel the same as when she was in her twenties. But her experience with rude passengers, untrustworthy men, and life in general, leaves her enraged. The silver lining is that she knows how to deal with it.
The story starts with a little rambling but gets on track. However, ‘magic’ isn’t the strong point of the story. It’s more of a useful prop. Replace it and the story would still work pretty much the same.
The writing is smooth and easy to read. The imagery is solid without being over the top. Most stories maintain a good pace too. The book can be read at once or in installments. Each story is unique enough to keep us engaged from start to finish. I did notice quite a few adverbs (me being me), though.
Oh, by the way, the stories use a decent dose of words in local languages. There’s a glossary at the end, but I was too lazy to go back and forth in the ebook. Luckily for me, some of the words were easy to guess. A few felt forced, more as a reminder of the country where the story is set than as a part of the narrative. But these are minor complaints. I enjoyed the collection and had a great time reading the stories.
I received a complimentary copy from the author, Mango Tree Publications, and BookSirens.
The book was published on 30th Sep 2021.
About the Author: Srivalli Rekha is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer. She got a degree in MBA and MA English Literature and chose to become a writer and a poet instead of a corporate professional.