Simple Pleasures by A.W. Marshall
ELJ Publications, 2015; 101 pp
Reviewed by Juliana Amir


Reading a book of short stories is akin to opening a box of chocolate with no map. One story can offer depth and excitement, and the other can be hiding a lemon filling. A.W. Marshall’s Simple Pleasures is a mix. He has fantastical way of making the reader feel as if they are feverish, and in this delusional world all things are possible—wishing flowers, gift-bearing birds, an unsaintly saint who brings you into her world of strange sin…these are among my favorites.

The characters in each story are all a little disturbed, but no two read alike. Within the stories, there is a reoccurring theme of fractured love. To see this element painted and painted again in so many sharp and usual ways was worth the investment. These characters have emotional scars, and sometimes they realize they’re flawed, and more interestingly, sometimes they don’t.

In “Kissing Guinevere”, the question is if you could have any wish what it would be? Like so many, Adam wishes a dead loved one back to life. He kissed an illegal flower, returned to his apartment, and found his mother waiting for him wearing the clothes she was buried in. For Adam, he has changed over the years with his environment, and for his mother, nothing has changed. It’s these rich situations that make the characters come to life.

This collection is for those who embrace weird and who enjoy stories that reflect a simple sentiment: “Life is so wonderful and cruel, is it not?”