Hearts Starve by Patricia Russo

Hearts Starve by Patricia Russo
Publisher: Eggplant Literary Productions
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (62 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Marleen comes home every night to watch her wife tend a dying father. Corrie spends her days searching for a job, searching for love, searching for a connection. Gil just wants the itching and the screaming to stop. All three want their lives to change.

Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you get what you think you want.

A random encounter with a capricious entity sends them crashing into each other; changing each in unexpected and unimaginable ways. By turns fantastical and horrific, Hearts Starve is a modern day fairy tale in the tradition of the oldest of Grimm’s stories.

It’s easy to have a positive attitude when life is going well. Finding enough motivation to grind through another day is much more difficult when you’re facing the imminent death of a family member or financial ruin. Will Marlene and Corrie’s situations ever improve?

The characterization in this short story is excellent. All of the main characters have well-developed personalities and flaws that emerge slowly as the plot progresses. It was easy for me to empathize with them because I got to know each one of them so rapidly. I finished this tale eager to know what happens next. While I don’t know if the author plans on writing a sequel, I would love to catch up with these characters again soon.

I enjoy a challenge and had a good time piecing together the clues provided in this tale about what was really going on. The author expects a certain amount of intellectual effort from her readers in order to understand the subtler aspects of the plot. Most of the time this works well, but there were a few loose ends that I was never quite able to piece together. I did develop a tentative theory about what those scenes were trying to say, but it would have been helpful to have a few more clues to guide me in the right direction before the thrilling climax.

Strong world-building in this piece made me feel as though I were reading a full-length novel. Ms. Russo did a wonderful job at methodically stitching together a rich tapestry of people and places that appear dreadfully ordinary at first glance. The real magic of this tale, though, is in how their unusual qualities showed up when this reader least expected them.

Hearts Starve is a great choice for anyone who is in the mood to be challenged. This is a clever, complicated short story that I can’t wait to read again.

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