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Review: Violet Rothko and other stories by John Grabowski

Released: 24th September 2019

Publisher: Millenium

Genre: Contemporary (short story collection)


A shy barista dates a quirky customer—until she learns something that shatters her life completely. A waiter dishes on the privileged suburban housewives who pile into his restaurant on Tuesday nights. Only a close few know the true colors of a famous movie star and self-styled humanitarian, and they wish they didn't. Life appears absolutely perfect for two newlyweds, until she's confronted with a revelation that leaves her with the choice of ending the marriage or moving forward. A group of young people live their lives aimlessly, except for one, who wants to be immortalized as an artist’s model. The daughter of a rich LA developer tries to open his eyes to the world he doesn’t wish to see, while his wife is slowly slipping away. These are sometimes intimate, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant and always timely stories about our changing and challenging world.

My Thoughts:

I was excited to be contacted by the author of this collection a few months ago, in the hopes that he could send me a copy for review. I enjoy short stories and am always keen to find new to me authors so I accepted.

I'm so glad I did - These stories are dynamic and varied in their themes, touching on friendship, connection, society conscience and intimacy in it's many forms. They are laced with a wry humour that I loved, and the way that John weaves stories around the normalcy of people, about what connects and divides us, was brilliantly done.

The first story - also the title story - compelled me with it's simplicity and the portrayal of such ordinary but interesting characters. This story was funny, warm and heart-breaking and a great choice to reel the reader in. As the collection unfolds, each one settles on someone in a different place with different values, and yet the tone ties them all nicely together to show a versatile talent whose sarcasm speaks amusingly through the situations he constructs.

I was trying to decide on my favourite story, and though they were all enjoyable, the title story stayed with me - partly because of how relatable the characters were, and partly because while reading it I became excited at the thought of having found an author whose work I really liked.

I don't read short story collections as often as I'd like - I've reviewed Jen Campbell's collection this year (which was amazing) and since reading Violet Rothko I've started to pick up a few more and will continue to do so. This collection is a refreshingly honest look at humanity, the intricacies and simplicities that make us people, with some light moments and some darker threads. Thanks to John Grabowksi for approaching me to share his work, and to Millenium Publishers for sending me a copy for an honest review. I highly recommend this, whether you read short stories often or if you read novels and would like a way into shorter works.

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