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Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite
In Sickness and in Hell: A Collection of Unusual Stories by Stefan Barkow is a precious gem for fans of the short story, but these are not just short stories. They are precious jewels, offered graciously to delight readers. There are eleven stories in this collection, each composed with a unique style, each with something mind-boggling, something entertaining, something to make the reader smile and scratch their head in wonderment.
Why would a young, beautiful girl want to become the sacrificial lamb to a pagan god? You’ll find that it isn’t strange in “Mystral.” There are other enticing, well-crafted stories like “Jen, Now,” “I Loved You once and Forever,” and “Forgive Me, Father.” Just like readers have adored the short stories of Langston Hughes for their literary beauty, these stories will linger with readers for their sharp wit, entertainment, and depth.
I enjoyed the prose and the author’s mastery of the art of the short story. The reader is not bugged with unnecessary details. In a very short while, the author makes the reader fall for a theme, a character, a plot line. And before they know it, there is a satisfactory ending. There is exquisite beauty in the prose, and at times it rings out with powerful lyricism. For instance: “In the sand and dirt and stone beneath my feet I can tell how badly the land hurts, how thirsty it is to drink of Aethna’s sacrifice. It seems forever before they bring her out.” In Sickness and in Hell could be Stefan Barkow’s debut short story collection, but it is a masterpiece, a delight to read.