Short Stories for the Hopeful and the Weary by Scott Roloff

WEARY
Short Stories for the Hopeful and the Weary by Scott Roloff
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Four short stories, each with a twist that will puzzle and perplex.

Nicoli’s Birthday – A young couple travel to Moscow to adopt a child on the eve of war.

A Lifetime Until Dawn – A soldier endures another sleepless night pondering the war atrocities that he committed, or did he?

Saturday’s Crossroad – A husband contemplates life without his wife.

God and the Devil – A journalist interviews the Devil, whose truth is quite different than what we’ve been told.

Everyone makes assumptions about the world around them. It’s part of being human. What happens, though, when first impressions bump into information that seems to contradict the assumptions that originally created them?

Get ready to think logically and take a second look at everything you thought you knew. This collection works best for readers who like to be challenged by the stories they meet. This is the kind of novel that should be savoured, not skimmed through, but anyone willing to take on puzzles that don’t immediately provide all of the clues necessary in order to solve them will find a lot to love in Short Stories for the Hopeful and the Weary.

I figured out what was actually happening in “Nicoli’s Birthday” almost instantly, but if I was going to rate the entire book on this one tale it would still earn a solid 3.5 stars. The premise is intriguing and Nicoli’s personality was so vividly written that at times I almost felt as though he was standing in front of me.

By far my favorite entry is “A Lifetime Until Dawn.” Memories can hold an incredibly powerful hold on our minds, and the narrator’s flashback to the most pivotal moment in his life was extremely well written. While I learned everything about his journey that I needed to know, I would have loved to see “A Lifetime Until Dawn” expanded into a novella. This is the kind of protagonist whose inner life is so nuanced that one day wading around his thoughts could provide fodder for a trilogy.

To be honest, I had to read “Saturday’s Crossroad” a second time before I truly understood what was going on. Rick’s understanding of his life does not always correspond to what is truly going on, and it is in this gap that Mr. Roloff’s writing truly shines. Even though I had serious ethical issues with the choices he makes, Rick ends up being the most memorable character of them all. He is far from a perfect person, but I ended up deeply sympathizing with his plight even though he isn’t someone I’d necessarily befriend in real life.

“God and the Devil” deserves to be read at least twice as well. Once again I wished it could have been expanded into a novella or full-length novel, but I truly enjoyed diving into this improbable interview with the most feared spirit in Christendom. I was especially interested in this tale as someone who has studied some of the apocryphal books that were once considered for inclusion in the Bible. In no way is Mr. Roloff sacrilegious in this text, but it was interesting to note the similarities between “God and the Devil” and the stories people circulate about any religion that may or may not actually be believed by the followers of that faith.

I did have some trouble determining if this collection was supposed to be set in contemporary or historical times. My best guess is that they all took place within the last 20 years, but due to the lack of references to technology or current events I’m not 100% sure that this is what the author actually intended his audience to assume. The lack of clarity on this issue had little impact on how much I enjoyed Mr. Roloff’s, work, though.

Short Stories for the Hopeful and the Weary is my first introduction to Mr. Roloff’s work, and if it is any indication of his writing style I hope to hear more from him again very soon. This is a great choice for readers who relish mysteries that don’t give up their secrets easily, and I would highly recommend it to anyone in the mood to be temporarily stumped.

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