Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Last Words of the Holy Ghost

Cashion, M. (2015). Last Words of the Holy Ghost. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press.

Adult / Short Story / Realistic Fiction

I gave this book 5 out of 5 Stars

Publisher's Blurb: Funny, heartbreaking, and real—these twelve stories showcase a dynamic range of voices belonging to characters who can’t stop confessing. They are obsessive storytellers, disturbed professors, depressed auctioneers, gambling clergy. A fourteen-year-old boy gets baptized and speaks in tongues to win the love of a girl who ushers him into adulthood; a troubled insomniac searches the woods behind his mother’s house for the “awful pretty” singing that begins each midnight; a school-system employee plans a year-end party at the site of a child’s drowning; a burned-out health-care administrator retires from New England to coastal Georgia and stumbles upon a life-changing moment inside Walmart. These big-hearted people—tethered to the places that shape them—survive their daily sorrows and absurdities with well-timed laughter; they slouch toward forgiveness, and they point their ears toward the Holy Ghost’s last words.
It is always difficult to write a review of a book of short stories; however, Last Words of the Holy Ghost by Matt Cashion is solid quality writing from start to finish.  Whether he's describing a landscape or a character, author Cashion provides readers with quick snapshots that have a lasting impact. Through character behaviors, Cashion masterfully shows just enough for readers to make a good call on the true nature of each character.

Before I let somebody drive me crazy, I drive them crazy first. 
That's the secret right there.

To say the characters are memorable is an understatement. The common thread of the characters in the twelve stories is that they all are struggling in some way and are searching for some thing, but their struggles stretch from and lead to a myriad of different situations.  My very favorite story was "Clarissa Drives John-Boy to the Jacksonville Airport," in which Clarissa (my favorite character) is brilliantly brought to life and so real readers will feel like they are in that car with her. Clarissa is a HOOT, and this was the first story where I had laugh-out-loud moments. Clarissa has loads of life lessons, like "Before I let somebody drive me crazy, I drive them crazy first. That's the secret right there," and "Every time you think you escaping, you really just swapping the devil for the witch."

Overall, the book was more melancholy and less humorous than I had hoped, but it was well written (just a few scattered punctuation and agreement errors) and Cashion's perspectives and approaches are unique and unforgettable. I highly recommend this book and thank the publisher for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 

View the trailer for the short film Last Words of the Holy Ghost

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Matt Cashion was born in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina and grew up in Brunswick and St. Simons Island, Georgia.  He earned an MFA at the University of Oregon and now teaches at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.  He is the author of two novels, How the Sun Shines on Noise and Our 13th Divorce. He lives in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
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