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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Complimentary Tales by David T. Straw is a collection of stories from a particular time in the life of each of the characters. The stories are associated with an Eastern Airlines deck of cards that finds its way into the lives of people from many walks of life from about 1984 to 2014. Straw begins with a story set in the Maldives in 2014 and then takes us into the past through the years until 1984. That's the year a stewardess on an Eastern Airlines flight gives eleven-year-old Addison Briggs the deck of cards. The stories are set primarily in the US and Europe. The card games are played aboard airplanes, at home, at college, on vacation, in cafes and golf clubhouses, and at tennis tournaments. Some of the characters appear in more than one story. For some people, the cards are associated with happy memories; for others, disillusionment. The cards become part of friendships, marriages, family, affairs, and breakups. For a few, the cards are connected to terrifying moments in their lives.
The Eastern Airline deck of cards is part and parcel of every story and the characters in each story. My curiosity about the characters and the journey of the cards was piqued by an early story in the collection. It's a story of terror and tension, of why and how the deck of cards ends up being left in a cafe. The lives of some characters crisscross over the years. Card games are part of their times together, their dreams, hopes and fears, and their relationships. I like the way Straw brings together the mundane, the ordinary, and the extraordinary aspects of people 's lives to create characters, circumstances, and experiences that are meaningful and realistic. The pace and action in the stories vary and the card games are a part of that. I liked the way Straw has arranged the stories. There are six parts corresponding to a particular period of years. Each part is introduced with intriguing headlines of real stories at the time, and each part ends with a list of the types of card games played. I found David T. Straw's Complimentary Tales fascinating and absorbing.