Reviewed by Phillip Howlette
That Stubborn Seed of Hope: Stories
By Brian Falkner
University of Queensland Press
2017, ISBN 9780702259692, Paperback, 224 pages, July 2017
Brian Falkner loves telling stories, either in his books or standing in front of an audience. He already has seventeen books aimed at children and young adults but this new collection of short stories is not for the faint-hearted. The theme of the book is ‘fear’ and in each story the author explores those horrible thoughts we have about dying, the unknown and rejection.
In ‘Lockdown’ the author drops us into a school in the US just as the alarm bells ring. A killer stalks the grounds – an all too familiar news story. How would you feel as the doors are locked and the lights turned off? You hide in a cupboard and wait. You hear a sound:
‘Is that you, Lucy?’ I say.
I hear the intake of breath as she opens her mouth to scream, but just then there are footsteps again on the staircase above us.
‘Sssshhh,’ I say desperately. ‘It’s Gary from Year 9. Be quiet!’
She understands, I think. At least she doesn’t scream. The wooden stairs above us creak.
He’s on the landing now. Only wooden floorboards separate us from him, standing so near to us.
Later in the story we are given a glimmer of hope that someone will rescue us from the darkness.
Here are some of the stories from the book.
In ‘Strawberry Lou’, a boy helps his sister disguise her birthmark on her first day at school.
In ‘I am Seventeen’ a young man awakens to find himself trapped in an elderly body.
In ‘The Kiss’ a teenage girl discovers that her boyfriend has a life threatening virus the day after they share their first kiss.
In ‘Smile’ a high school student tries to communicate with his hospitalised brother who is in a vegetative state.
With great writing skill Brian Falkner uses simple but effective language to continue the exploration of human emotions throughout the book. Some of his stories are sad, some quite dark and one or two almost funny but at the turn of each page the reader feels a tugging of the heartstrings, or worse, something delving into the mind stirring up those repressed feelings that nobody wants to talk about.
But take heart dear reader, hope is at hand. Woven into the stories are threads of endurance, of coping and overcoming and in a recent interview the author said, ‘I believe the secret to that is hope. We can endure almost anything in our lives as long as there remains that stubborn seed of hope.’
At the end of the book, and only after you have stopped shaking in your boots, take a look at the Author’s Notes. Brian Falkner gives us an insight into each of the stories and shares his ideas on what each one means to him. That’s not all. You will also discover how he manages to develop such strong feelings into his writing. And for any budding writers out there, he offers some highly valuable advice on how to craft a story.
I found The Stubborn Hope of Fear highly thought provoking and entertaining at the same time. I came across this by a stroke of luck and being a member of the older generation I firmly believe that there should be a new genre created for ‘mature young adults and old people’.
About the reviewer: Phillip Howlette lives near Newcastle New South Wales Australia and enjoys writing, painting and going for quite short walks. He has self published short sci-fi stories and a beginner’s guide to meditation on Amazon under the name of Douglas Phillips. He is a member of a small creative writer’s network and continues to write stories every week.