#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: In the Land of Armadillos

February 3, 2016 Uncategorized 29 ★★★★★

#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: In the Land of ArmadillosTitle: In the Land of Armadillos: Stories
Author: Helen Maryles Shankman
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: I loved how these connected short stories revealed more layers of each character as they went and also how the magical realism and surprising acts of kindness brought hope to otherwise bleak stories.

This collection of connected short stories is set during the Nazi occupation of Wlodawa, Poland. The people we meet there include “a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book, even as he helps exterminate the artist’s friends and family; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: the enigmatic and silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, Commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker and his family, struggling to survive.” (source)

I don’t typically go for short story collections, but connected short stories are a different animal altogether. I loved the way this author used the connection between the stories to reveal new layers to some central characters and to give different perspectives on many of the events in the book. The element of magical realism also made me excited to pick this up and it was as good as I hoped. I liked that the magical realism was often subtle, potentially explicable by more rational means. The author also drew in some mythologies I was less familiar with and enjoyed learning about.

Both the magical realism and the surprising kindness of some characters helped give this potentially very dark book a ray of hope. I particularly enjoyed the conflicting aspects of the main character in the first story, the Nazi officer trying to save one specific individual because of a connection to his son. I don’t, however, have a least favorite story, The author’s writing was beautiful and emotionally evocative throughout. I truly enjoyed every story in this collection and would highly recommend it.

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29 Responses to “#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: In the Land of Armadillos”

    • DoingDewey

      I’d definitely not let the fact that it’s short stories put you off. At least for me, when short stories are connected, they feel enough like a novel for me to really enjoy them and this was a great collection 🙂

  1. Helen Maryles Shankman

    Thank you for that wonderful review! I’m so glad you liked it! It was really challenging writing Max’s character. The research was profoundly difficult to read, but I felt I had to know what he’d done and what he’d seen to make him come to life. And after all that, I still had to make him sympathetic.

    • DoingDewey

      Ah, no wonder I loved this so much. It felt really well researched and that, plus the beautiful writing, magical realism, and complex characters made this is a great read for me. Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂

  2. Naomi

    I agree with you that short stories take on a whole new meaning when they are linked. Olive Kitteridge is a good example of one that I loved, and The Shore has gotten huge praise (haven’t read it yet, but I’m excited to).

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve been wanting to get to The Shore too, based on the many great reviews. I don’t know much about Olive Kitteridge, but I’ll definitely look it up and check out your review 🙂

  3. Katie McD @ Bookish Tendencies

    Short story collections don’t always do it for me… however two “buzz words” that will push me towards picking it up are “magical realism” and “linked stories”… so ding, ding! Sounds like I need to give this one a looksie. 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      It was a really great collection! Part of why short stories aren’t more my thing is because collections are usually hit or miss for me. In a linked collection all by the same author, it’s more common for me to find a book like this one, where I enjoy every story.

  4. Andi

    I’m a wad of emotions about the possibility of this one! I love short story collectiosn like this one but the WWII element makes me…iffy. Gahhh!

    • DoingDewey

      There are so many books about WWII, I sometimes get burnt out on the topic, but this was a unique enough take on that it didn’t feel like anything else I’d read before. So, if you’re worried about it because you’ve read far too much about WWII, I think you’d probably like this more than you might expect 🙂

  5. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories

    Ok, I totally thought this would be set in Texas, the Nazi WWII storyline threw me for a complete loop! I love when short stories are connected, actually I prefer them that way. Otherwise, when I’m getting into a story and it suddenly ends, I’m totally bummed and left wanting more.

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, with the title, I can see why you’d think that! I definitely agree with you about short stories. If they’re not connected, I sometimes dislike them for being short and I sometimes enjoy them anyway, but wish there was more.

    • DoingDewey

      I typically don’t read short stories myself, but I’m discovering that connect short stories are actually a genre I particularly like 🙂

  6. Jennifer C

    I’m not usually a fan of short stories, but your review makes these sound fascinating, especially because they are connected to each other.

    • DoingDewey

      The connections make a big difference for me! I feel as though short stories are rarely satisfying, with even the best making me wish they were longer. Connected short stories are more like a novel in scope and I find them much more enjoyable 🙂

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