Amidst Traffic: Provoking Wonder
The twenty short stories in Michel Sauret’s collection Amidst Traffic explore the ways people grapple with faith. Readers seeking stories with a heavy dose of christian-infused themes will not be disappointed. Those who prefer slice-of-life stories with more subtle themes will likely find the stories a bit heavy-handed. Either way, the collection demonstrates the author’s craftsmanship of the short story form.
While I do not regularly read Christian literature, I do make a point to read short story collections. The title, Amidst Traffic, provides a hint at the interwoven nature of the stories. A minor character or incident in one story will later turn up as a major focus in another. Such an attempt at structuring is admirable, though not always pulled-off satisfactorily due to the number of stories in the collection.
The stories in the first half of Amidst Traffic struck me as being the strongest ones. The inter-connected nature of the stories felt more organic, as did the overall energy. As with any collection, some stories will grab the reader’s attention more than others. I particularly enjoyed “Clouds in the Water” for its excellent suspense and the way it shows the audacity of youth. It also cleverly cleared up the mystery introduced in the first story. “Rolling Down the Mountain” Another favorite of mine was “Rolling Down the Mountain” which draws attention to the perils of belonging and overcoming via an overweight teen’s initiation into the Brotherhood.
After a while, some of the stories felt a bit repetitive and could have been condensed. A handful focus on an Army journalist named Myron. Due to the amount of pages devoted to developing his character, they would be better off becoming part of a novel. The autobiographical nature of the Myron stories could definitely be expanded upon.
I for one, most enjoyed how many of the stories had open endings. While some readers may like loose ends tied up, there’s much merit in leaving the final implications of a story on the reader’s shoulders. It’s a rare writing talent that can provoke that sense of wonder.
What short story collections have made an impression on you?
You can connect with Michel Sauret on his author website.
For more insight, read my Book Review Criteria. All media appears courtesy of the author. Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2013.
I used to read Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen’s short stories. Of course, this was years ago. I liked them because they were filled with suspense.
Lorraine, I’ll look into both of those authors as I’ve not read their short stories. I sure could use some examples of well-done suspense considering how my WIP could use a bit more 😉
Not sure what WIP means…
There used to be digests (same size as Reader’s Digest magazines) of Ellery Queen stories that my dad would read, when I was young. I’d read them when I was out of things to read. The stories were similar to The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, from what I can remember.
Now, I mostly read novels… and blog posts! 🙂
Lorraine, WIP stands for “work in progress.” Thanks for mentioning Ellery Queen. I’ll keep that name in mind when looking for some new reads.
Jeri, i gotta tell you – i am not much a book person (unless it relates to marketing) but your book reviews start growing on me. If i start reading books as much as i did as a kid, i’ll have to think of some kind of a prize for you 😉 thank YOU!
At first, i was thinking how a George Carlin fan can read christian literature LOL – but then you cleared that. I can;t answer the question about short stories collection as i have read only one, and it was in Bulgarian – so, you wouldn;t be able to participate in the discussion! haha – but i’d like to say something about the open ending.
I am one of those people who don;t like them. I went crazy for a few days after i watched the Sopranos series finale – that i call and open ending and it was NOT cool. so many seasons and then pooh, nobody knows what happened in the end or better say, everyone decides how the series actually ended. No, for the peace of my mind, i prefer the end game to be clear – both in movies and books 😀
Diana, ahhh the lovely days of a youth spent devouring books! I wish I could go back in time to relive those days. I totally understand about your view of open endings. I think I like them because it give me an out to slip into daydreaming at any given point in time.
Most Christian literature promotes the hunky dory effect. That one that claims once you are a Christian you don’t experience life like everyone else. I would rather read something like this that shares the struggles that those with the faith experience. This is more of the reality.
Of course short stories are always my preferred reading too.
Your description of the majority of Christian literature hits the ol’ nail on the head. Hunky-dory writing drives me batty 😉
I have always been drawn to short stories because I am story teller myself. I can’t think of any off hand except for Micheel Albom’s books such as “Tuesday with Morrie” and “Have a Little Faith”. Because I am working on a collection of short stories, I found this was very interesting. It gave some insight into some things i need to be mindful as I move forward with my collection. 🙂
Susan, even though you are writing real-life stories, the same elements of fiction still come into play in making the stories connect so well with readers. I’m glad I was able to have input concerning the story of your upcoming collection.
Does Flannery O’Connor count as Christian literature? Because I am quite fond of her short stories. Must read them again.
I was curious about Michel’s background – I was guessing French or French Canadian, but his bio said he was born in Italy and grew up in the U.S.
Leora, O’Conner’s work would certainly fall under the Christian literature category. The great thing about her writing is how it doesn’t get pigeon-holed. She’s the quintessential Southern writer, and religion always seems to get thrown into that mix.
I like short stories. Christian themed or otherwise. There is always something there if you can get past the ‘in your face’ stuff.
Cheryl, I’ll have to recommend a few of my favorite ones to you someday…
Your post reminded me that I need to get back into short stories. I can’t even remember the last collection that I read…but I used to really enjoy them. These days I devour lit fiction, and commercial fiction and really great narrative non-fiction. When I’m not writing! LOL As usual, a really well written and honest review. You’ve no idea how much I appreciate that!
Jacquie, I’m a pretty big fan of narrative non-fiction as well, particularly mountain climbing stories. Thanks also for the observation of my book review style. I’m most proud of my reviews 🙂
I tend to prefer short story collections by multiple authors. One of my favorite classic books like that is “You’ve Gotta Read This.” In general, I like to lose myself in longer stories–novels, that is. However, I very much admire good short story writers. This is not an easy genre.
Jagoda, stories are so difficult to write because every word must count. A novelist can get away with a bit more fluff. Go figure that the first draft of my novel had no padding since I’ve only written short stories in the past. Now I need to come up with more stuff.
As you know Jeri, I read a lot. But short stories are simply not my cup of tea. With the exception of W. Somerset Maugham.
Honestly had never heard of the genre Christian litterature. Most likely an American phenomena since you are much more religious in the US.
Catarina, oh yes in America there is a Christian category for almost everything.
I love that this book is about faith because that would means a little something different to every person.
Krystle, great insight. Faith is such a broad topic and open to many interpretations.
I haven’t read much Christian literature although I do have a few of Frank Peretti’s books. The two I’ve read I really liked. I think this collection of short stories sounds intriguing. I have a collection of non-fiction short stories to be read as well titled Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet with introduction and editing by Ruth Reichl. I really enjoy food-related stories so I look forward to this read.
Pamela, I’m positive I would quite enjoy the Endless Feasts collection you mentioned. I’ll keep it in mind.
I’ve never been a great fan of short stories other than those Lorraine mentioned and a few sci-fi collections. In fact, the last time I read short stories that I really enjoyed, I was reading your book.
Debra, I’m planning on writing new short stories for November’s National Novel Writing Month. As I’ve been reading short story submissions for a literary journal, I’ve been able to further refine what makes for a good short story.