I received a review copy of This Other Eden from Dybbuk Press recently and read it over the Passover holiday. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I was going more on the name of the book than anything else. I was surprised by the six stories in this collection — five of which were printed elsewhere previously. Though each of the stories is grim in nature, they all have glimmers of hope within them — somewhat reflective of how life itself can be.
The first story is the one from which the collection gets its name, though it originally comes from the play Richard II:
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
The quotation that inspires the title of the collection also inspires the main character of the story, a young girl with an exceptional talent for writing that ultimately brings to mind the question about whether good writers only write about the world they have personally experienced or if it is possible that they can invent whole new worlds that have no basis in reality. It ends with a snap that is like a slap across the face.
The other stories and novellas in the collection largely deal with chance — the chance encounter in a parking lot that saves a person’s life, the chance choice of lottery digits that doesn’t bring its winner the fiscal salvation that he thinks it will — and even the chance attack that seems to ruin one woman’s life forever.
One thing that didn’t thrill me about the collection was that, regardless of the subject of the story, sex manages to always play a big role. I understand that the average male thinks about sex six times per minute, but did all six tales really have to have sex interspersed so frequently?
Sex aside, I was really happy with this collection of stories. You can find it online at Amazon and other online bookstores.