Today Booklover Book Reviews is hosting the TLC Book Tour for Wanderers : Stories by Edward Belfar.
This exquisitely crafted collection includes several stories set in Kenya, offering tantalizing glimpses of life in that troubled but fascinating country beyond the picturesque game parks. In “Mistaken Identity,” a blunder by an American groom-to-be at a traditional Kikuyu engagement ceremony lands him in hot water with his fiancée. “Something Small” depicts the inner struggles of a man trying to remain honest amid a culture of corruption. In “Departure,” an expatriate returning to Nairobi for a visit discovers her brother’s plans to raze the family home. Despairing of changing his mind, she sets off on what she expects will be a nostalgic voyage to the coast via the overnight train. Sadly typical of the Kenya to which she has come back, however, the elegant conveyances of her youth now exist only in her memory, and her journey becomes a grim test of her endurance. The book concludes with the very poignant title story, “Wanderers.” The story hinges on an act of kindness shown by one nocturnal wanderer, a man whose life appears on the verge of unraveling, to another, his one-time law school professor, a formerly imposing figure whom age has left frail and disoriented.
Finely wrought and deeply moving, the stories in Wanderers will linger with the reader long beyond the final page. (Amazon)
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The short story collection Wanderers by Edward Belfar comprises 15 pieces ranging from 10 to 22 pages in length. Several of the stories in the collection are set in Kenya while others in Europe and the United States. No matter the setting, the prevailing theme is one of upheaval and dislocation, people being disconnected from those around them in various ways and to varying degrees. The causes attributed to that dislocation cover a wide spectrum, from grief and loss and self-destructive behaviour through to more macro issues such as the clash of traditional and western cultures.
Edward Belfar’s prose is not peppered with literary flair, but it does exude a sense of gravitas. The symbolism and messaging is there but often understated. Most of the pieces in Wanderers do not exhibit the twists or clever tricks often found in short story collections. They often read more like a vignette or window into a longer story.
My favourite piece is one of the most humorous and self-contained stories in the collection, ‘Rule of Law’. It is narrated by a lawyer counselling an inexperienced colleague in the perils of the profession and regaling the story of a particularly interesting client he once defended.
She presented me with a malpractice case of sorts. What, you ask, did she practice? Why, biofield therapeutic healing, of course. A biofield therapeutic healer is someone you take your aura to if it’s out of alignment. She will balance it and cleanse it and probably wax it, too, for no extra charge. Everyone has an aura, you see. You don’t see? Well, you have one anyway. Yours is quite a nice one, actually. Almost pristine. I’d like to have an aura like yours. Maybe I did once. I don’t know. It was a long time ago, if ever. Keep yours the way it is. If you can.
The short story collection Wanderers by Edward Belfar provides much food for thought.
BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
BLBR: Several of the stories in the Wanderers collection are set in Kenya. Do you have special ties to that country?
Edward: I do. My wife is originally from Kenya, though she is now a U.S. citizen and has lived the majority of her life here. She still has a lot of family back in Kenya, however, and we have made several extended visits there together. I think that Kenya has proved a fertile ground for my fiction because of my perspective as both outsider and insider. As a visitor, I have had the chance to observe, with a visitor’s detachment, a culture very different from my own. As a member of my wife’s large extended family and an honorary Kikuyu, I have had the opportunity to acquire a much greater understanding of that culture than I would have as a typical Western tourist or business traveler.
BLBR: Many of your stories read as though they are a window into a much longer story, and two of the stories in this collection are actually linked. Do you have any plans to write a novel?
Edward: Though my plans are a bit sketchy at the moment, I would like to make my next project a novel. Several people who have read Wanderers have expressed views similar to yours and suggested that I develop one or another of the stories into a longer work. I have been toying with the idea of exploring in greater depth the relationships among the siblings in “The Ruined House.” “Leaving the Chesapeake” may also offer some scope for further development.
BLBR: My favourite story in the collection is The Rule of Law. Do you have a favourite piece?
Edward: I’m very glad that you enjoyed “The Rule of Law.” The editors of the magazine Silent Voices, in which the story was originally published, evidently did as well, as they nominated it for a Pushcart Prize. I don’t know that I have a single favorite piece. I have done public readings of “Mistaken Identity” and “Visitations” because, on those particular days, I preferred one or the other of the two. For my upcoming readings, though, I could just as easily choose another story, and that one would become my temporary favorite. The one thing I can say definitely is that I had the most fun writing “The Rule of Law.”
Have you read Wanderers? Do you want to?
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Be sure to check out the other tour stops on this TLC Book Tour.
* This book counts towards my participation in the Short Story Summer Challenge.
Author Information: Edward Belfar is a Long Island native who now lives with his wife in Maryland and works as a writer and editor. His fiction has appeared in Shenandoah, Tampa Review, Confrontation, Natural Bridge, and numerous other publications. His short story “Errors” was chosen as the winning entry in the Sport Literature Association’s 2008 fiction competition. Wanderers is his first book.
– Edward Belfar writes On False Starts and Detours at the Baltimore Review
* My receiving a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions on this title.