Things Happen by Christopher Acker – Book Review
Author – Christopher Acker
Pages – 275
Released – 15th November 2021
ISBN-13 – 979-8462297281
Format – ebook, paperback
Rating – 4 Stars
I received a free copy of this book.
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In these four stories, things happen.
A mother loses her son to a magic trick gone horribly wrong. Now a Google Maps car is trying to erase the last tangible memory she has of him.
Michelle lands her first big role in Hollywood as a prostitute in a Sam Cooke biopic. But her chance at stardom is jeopardized when riots break out after an innocent black man is murdered by the LAPD.
Everyone in St. Louis knows about the Salazar House of Horrors where a teenage girl was tortured and imprisoned. The prosecution asks Brandon—a model railroad enthusiast—to make a miniature replica of the infamous dungeon. The goal is to persuade the jury to put the monster behind bars forever. But constructing such degradation at 1/12th scale with his wife and two daughters lingering over his shoulder pushes Brandon and his family beyond their limit.
Disgraced journalist Alexander Reynolds is knee-deep in depression. Just about the only thing he can muster these days is slithering to his couch to watch The Maury Povich Show. In a sudden stroke of genius, a path out of his humiliation falls into his lap: he will fake his way to being a guest on Maury. There’s only one problem. He’ll need to convince his wife—the Oscar-winning filmmaker—to play a co-starring role.
The characters here are bruised, battered, and just plain exhausted. They’re like us. And like us, not everything works out for them. It’s this humanity that’s at the heart of this unforgettable collection.
Things Happen offers a poignant yet highly entertaining portrayal of people desperately looking for answers in a time when truth and facts are more elusive than ever. The themes of infidelity, unresolved grief, identity, redemption, and racial injustice are woven throughout, lending these short stories a degree of resonance every reader can connect with. And to keep things interesting, a celebrity or two might even make an appearance.
Above all else, Things Happen reflects what’s going on in this country right now:
A whole lot of something.
Review by Clive
My expectation of Things Happen was a collection of short stories but there are only four, averaging around 70 pages each in its paperback format. This gives the reader plenty of time to know the characters and for a story to develop. They are all however in the style of traditional short stories in that each of them focuses on one or two specific issues affecting more or less just the central character.
I am sure that if he had wanted to, Christopher Acker could have extended or merged some of the stories to produce a full length novel but if the story is only 50-80 pages long then why spoil it? As it is we have four good “books” for the price of one.
The author/publisher has given us a comprehensive synopsis of the stories which all follow contemporary issues and like many of us, none of the protagonists are living an ideal life. Generally they are all suffering from 21st Century stresses. Because of the subject matter they are generally rather serious narratives with few light moments.
Of course, with four stories the reader is bound to find some tales better than others. I really felt for the widow Dinah in Now You See Him, Now You Don’t as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her son in his early twenties. My particular favourite was Lady, You Shot Me with its twin settings of a Sam Cooke biopic and an all too familiar US riot following a police killing. Of the four this was the one story that I feel could have been expanded.
The Salazar House of Horrors highlights how violence can impact so many people. I probably found Thank You, Mr Povich, For All You Do the weakest of the four; Alexander’s mental struggles were realistic but some of the storyline was less convincing.
I can definitely recommend Things Happen. It will not make you laugh, it will not give you happy endings but it will make you think about some of the stresses of modern living.