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Reviewed by Barbara Oliverio for Readers' Favorite
Reading Holiday Shorts: Flash Fiction is like dipping into a Christmas stocking. Each story is a tasty morsel, easy to digest, and makes you eager to reach for the next. Barbara Venkataraman takes on the usual suspects of the holiday season and gives each the flash fiction treatment. Each short, short story establishes a setting and introduces characters quickly, ranging from Santa and his erstwhile elves to modern harried shoppers to New Year’s Eve merriment deniers. Stories about Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s celebrations are capped with endings that make the reader laugh or sigh – sometimes both. The collection is easy to read and, though fictional, each story cleverly hints at a universal truth. While each tale stands on its own, taken together they give a distinctive depiction of a typical holiday season.
Barbara Venkataraman always exhibits an acute eye in her observational essays in non-fiction, and her foray into fiction in this small-scale genre benefits from that talent. Her acerbic wit and piquant charm have the ability to make what could be pedestrian tales sparkle. Compressing a good story into a few words is a rare talent, but Venkataraman gets the most bang for her literary buck in Holiday Shorts: Flash Fiction. This book often had me laughing out loud, and I was delighted in the quirky twists that most of the stories took that evoked the works of O. Henry. Put this one at the top of your holiday gift-giving list, and don’t forget to gift one to yourself.