Book Review: Five-Carat Soul

This book was a reminder of the particular pleasures of the short story. Some of the stories in the collection aren’t that short, really, but all were manageable in a single sitting and were compact, complete works. And a really nice effect in a book of this type is the range of emotions and the range of imaginative scenarios Mc Bride carries you through. There is the kind of historical morality play of the first story – “The Under Graham Railroad Box Car Set” – through the very natural stories from the poor, rural Pennsylvania area we are introduced to only as “The Bottom” to the closing dark-Disney zoo fantasy of the final stories, the collection takes you through a vast range of emotions and gives you plenty of intriguing ideas to reflect on. The writing is superb – often reminiscent of Langston Hughes, if his “Simple” characters were put in a contemporary rural setting – and McBride’s characters are deep, nuanced and starkly human. This is, in short, a wonderful and diverse collection, to which I am sure I will return many times.