Brain Falkner, That Stubborn Seed of Hope, University of Queensland Press, 7 July 2017, 224pp., $19.95 (pbk), ISBN: 9780702259692
At the back of this collection of sad, funny, quirky and poignant short stories, Brian Falkner gives the reader an insight into how each story evolved and why he decided to write one in the first person and another in the third or why one ending was chosen over another. If you are a writer it may be helpful seeing how plots evolved and as a reader it provides an interesting backstory but the strength of these stories speak for themselves. Masterfully written with humour and pathos, Falkner encourages his young adult audience to confront their fears. The thorny areas of love, aging and death are explored in stories like the 17 year old boy who finds himself trapped in the body of a very old man, or a world where a deadly virus that threatens humanity means a teenage girl has to think carefully about her first kiss. He asks the reader to contemplate their feelings when dealing with the death of a loved one or to explore the evolving emotions of the protagonists in a story where the lost magic of childhood is relived in the course of a phone conversation with a stranger. No one escapes the touch of misfortune in this collection but this is what makes the stories so powerful. As in life, what drives the narrative in each story and spurs the reader to eagerly turn the next page is a sense of hope, no matter how slim.
These are stories that will inspire, confront and demand reflection. Highly recommended for readers aged 15+.
Reviewed by Mem Capp