Pairs Well With:
A six-pack of Big Sky Brewing Company’s Moose Drool; an honest, rich brown ale, heavy enough to keep you relaxed, and with the right amount of crispness to keep your fingers nimble as you turn the pages of a good read.
Genre: Literature/Short Stories
Author: Kris Bertin
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Whiskey Shots
Kris Bertin’s debut is a collection of expertly written short stories, all unique in their perspectives and threads, yet all similar in their narrators; browbeaten, down trodden, lower society people just looking for something to do, something to goad them onto a better life, but with no clear way of achieving that dream.
This book is incredibly unique, particularly in today’s literary climate. In a society obsessed with serial fiction, and novels of often gassy prose, the slender 200 page volume of Bertin’s short stories makes no attempt at blending in with the literary giants of the day. Browsing the shelves of my local library, I stumbled across this tome and took a chance on checking it out, and what a wonderful payout it was.
The prose is honest and concise, just like any lover of Hemingway will appreciate. And yet, the voice of Bertin takes it a step further, meshing in the uncommon lists of descriptions that few authors aside from Dickens have been able to make an enjoyable part of the text. I also loved the nod to Cormac McCarthy in that there was no use of quotation marks when it came to dialogue; it all blended into the narrative, giving more of a reminiscent feel to the stories, rather than an oral account.
I am ecstatic that an author stepped forward with a non-conforming book, and was recognized by a publishing house. This volume of short stories is very well written, and I believe to even be an important book for this day and age. The “protagonists,” if you can call them that, are folks that may not align exactly with experiences many of us have had, however the lot they carry in life is, for this reviewer, incredibly relatable. Trash men, dejected teenagers, limo drivers, window washers, grief-stricken sons: these are the heroes Bertin highlights in his stories, and none of them are perfect. Many of them often make decision that will leave you pulling your hair, but when you take a moment to think on it, you have to honestly ask yourself, “Would I have done any different?”
I love that these stories all leave off before the best is revealed. It’s so interesting that the resolution is known to exist to the reader, however it exists off the page, and can only be imagined and hoped for; like what the characters experience in our time with them. A particular favourite of mine is “The Narrow Road,” a dark, shocking story of a young man trying desperately to provide for his fledgling family, with an ending that will jar you.
This is a book featuring real characters, real people, dealing with real problems, and reacting in real ways. It is a direct observation of the downtrodden members of society and what they go through, and yet, it is completely fiction; a masterful web spun by a gifted writer who understands the common man, and the complexities of a simple existence.
Truly, my only hang up with this compilation is the singular viewpoint seemingly held by the characters in all the stories. It is an honest, frank, calloused, somewhat cynical view of the world and those around them, and given the circumstances that these people face, I totally believe that these reactions and lines of thought are completely reasonable.
However, would all the characters think this way?
Would everyone living in the bottom, beaten rung of the socio-economic ladder think and act in a jaded, “I don’t give a shit about anything” manner? This reviewer finds it hard to believe that is the case.
The lack of truly diverse thought patterns and observations/reactions to the world became noticeable as the stories continued. This led to a gradual lack of surprise in the situations presented, and took away from the power that many of these stories could have exhibited.
Corking the Bottle:
Bad Things Happen is truly a breath of fresh air.
In this day of politically correct novels that care more about diversity and representation, than art and social critique, Bad Things Happen really shines as one of the first books to stand its ground and give the Social Justice Writers a fat, Devil-may-care bird.
Full of honest observations and the Dickens-like focus on the lowest of society, the stories in this book inspire a hope of better things to come and truly give one a pause to consider what is going in their own lives.