The Peace Process, by Bruce Jay Friedman ****

thepeaceprocessThe Peace Process is actually a collection of short stories plus one novella at the end. The writing is edgy all the way through and in a number of places it’s very, very funny. Thank you to Net Galley and Open Road Integrated Media for providing me with a DRC to read in advance. This collection will be available to the public October 13.

If any work of fiction you have read in the past five years or so has offended you in any way, the first selection in this collection is guaranteed to do so. It did me. Frankly, I am such a consistently fast, thorough reviewer that I could blow one off right now if I was disturbed enough by it, and I came pretty close. I don’t like to spoil things, but at the same time you ought to be warned. Is incest—even imagined incest, and with details—offensive to you? Is there a way to make a boy’s graphically imagined incest with an older sister acceptable, even funny? If so, then this is your collection. As for me, I almost wrote to the publishers to tell them that I wasn’t reading or reviewing one more story in this nasty little book; fortunately for me, I looked at the table of contents, figured out how much more of the book there was left to read, and decided to stick with it for one more story. And the next story, “The Storyteller”, was funny enough that I forgot—well, almost forgot–how mad I’d been a few minutes before.

But I seriously question the editor’s choice to put that one dreadful story right up front. It’s almost like begging the reader to throw the book out the window.

Moving on, the writing in all the other stories, from the second on through the last, is really strong. My imaginary red teacher’s pen sometimes comes out when I’m reading a galley, and I’ll think how much better the work would be if we could just nip this part here and take a meat-axe to another section. Not so for Friedman. Every word is well chosen, and the pacing is taut and brisk. Besides “The Storyteller”, my other favorites were “The Choice” and “The Strainer”. The endings always surprised me, and a couple of times, had I not had someone sleeping beside me as I read, I would have moaned aloud when I reached the denouement.

If I were to advise someone with tastes like my own as to whether to read the collection or leave it go, I would say get the book; skip the first story; read the rest of it. But then, you have to decide these things for yourself. I’ve done what I can, and the rest is up to you.

For fans of edgy, dark fiction, recommended with the caveat mentioned.

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