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Reviewed by Bowen Craig for Readers' Favorite
American Blues may be the saddest book I’ve ever read. It’s also damned poetic. The overwhelming sense of stark, but understandable, tragedy in Evan Guilford-Blake’s short stories produce real emotion in a way that even most books written to encompass a certain emotional state rarely accomplish. I winced a few times. I felt tears well up. I even did a Bugs Bunny-esque double-take at one point. This is a powerful read.
This collection includes slices-of-city-life stories from five different time periods. I thoroughly enjoyed the time jumping. It keeps the dialogue from getting stale and pulls the reader more powerfully into the feelings and scenarios, allowing for identification with an idea, even if the vignettes of city subculture are foreign to the reader.
The rhythms and waves of the language used in the stories have a musical feel. Much like jazz, the plot lines don’t always flow the way you think they should. American Blues has surprising plot twists, but comfortably relatable characters, settings and predicaments. If you’re looking for a smooth read that doesn’t make you think or question the way of the world, pick up something by James Patterson, Nora Ephron or Clive Cussler. This collection is something different.
If you’ve ever felt misunderstood, if your dreams have ever been shattered, if you need to be reminded that your station in life could definitely be worse or that many times there’s nowhere to go but up, read American Blues. An accomplished playwright and author, Evan Guilford-Blake knows how to manipulate an audience’s emotions and produce believable “I can’t believe that just happened” moments. If you don’t recognize aspects of people you know in this tightly written book, just look in the mirror.