Special thanks to Guy of His Futile Preoccupations for hosting the giveaway from which I won this book.
The Uninnocent by Bradford Morrow is a collection of short stories that share many common threads. The tales are generally first person accounts of quirky outsider types, some of whom commit questionable and sometimes reprehensible acts including murder.
To a remarkable degree, Morrow has gotten really deep into his characters’ heads. The majority of these fictional people have suffered loss or displacement in their early years that sends them a little off kilter. Though far from perfect, these characters are often complex and sympathetic.
In “The Hoarder” the main character hides in a small building that is part of a miniature golf course as he covertly observes couples playing the game.
“The physical urgency I felt, spying on these lovers, I sated freely behind the thin walls of my hiding place. Meanwhile, I learned how lovers speak, what kind of extravagant lies they tell each other, the promises they make, and all I could feel was gratitude that my brand of intimacy didn’t involve saying anything to anybody. “
False perception of reality is key theme of most of the stories. Many of the characters are unreliable narrators. Some of these storytellers lead the reader to believe that they are acting in good faith or self – defense; before the tale’s end, however, holes pop up in their narratives.
In “The Enigma of Grover’s Mill,” the adolescent narrator comes to believe that his mother’s live in boyfriend is a three-legged Martian. Of course, this casts doubt upon the other aspects of reality that have been reported.
In “Amazing Grace,” our main character is blinded in an accident. After a period of depression, he picks himself up and, by using his misfortune as an example, he becomes an enormously successful spiritual and motivational speaker. After ten years, he spontaneously regains his sight. Keeping his newly regained vision a secret from his family and associates, he is shocked when he realizes what is really going on around him.
Some of the stories end in an imperfect redemption, usually with the flawed character finding a fellow outsider as a soul mate. All is never completely right and balanced because the serious defect is shown to still be lurking in the background. In “The Road to Nadeja,” the main character exhibits a lifelong habit of stealing things from friends and family. He uses the thefts in a bizarre way to gain further intimacy with these people. Later in life, isolated and alone, he makes a symbolic break from his habit and seems ready to begin over again. He meets a woman, but it is implied that he will steal something from her in order to cement their relationship.
Though often dark, this is a terrific collection of stories. Morrow’s writing is aesthetically pleasing, meaningful but very accessible. The character development is rich. Not always a journey into the blackest depths of the human heart, this is more a voyage into the murky grey. I highly recommend this for anyone who likes slightly off - beat stories with odd - ball characters.