I’ve always enjoyed reading short stories and have a large collection of short story anthologies all over my apartment. Writing a story that lasts for only 10 pages or so isn’t as easy as some would think. You have to get thoughts, ideas, and emotions condensed into these few pages while still getting the reader to identify with it all. Not all writers can do this. Stephen King, in my opinion, writes some of the best short stories around and now I’m going to add Mark Lages to my list of solid storytellers.

In “Hula Ville and Other Short Stories” Mr. Lages gives readers close to 40 short tales that have a similar theme, being happy and how to obtain and keep it. Okay, in some of the stories you have to really look for the theme but it is there especially in the story, “Merry-Go-Round.”

In the very first story, titled “Hula Ville” a man is waiting to see if he’ll be admitted to a mental hospital. The police found him on the side of the road doing the dance “The Twist” created by Chubby Checker back in the 1960’s. As he speaks to the doctors who will determine if he will be admitted to the facility or not he explains what led up to his dancing. I understood it all and the reasoning behind the man’s actions made sense to me. The end of the story shows how the character’s explanation to his roadside dance got through to one of the doctors.

Every story was interesting and written intelligently but my favorite, without a doubt, was “Natalie’s Bathroom.” I don’t know why it affected me as strongly as it did. I was never in the situation that the main character, April, was in but somehow and for some reason I identified with her pain, loss, and anger and how she felt about her changed life.

As I was thinking about this story I thought that the author couldn’t possibly have gone through what the character in “Natalie’s Bathroom” went through but maybe he has in a different format. Did he ever have the same situation that April was thinking about at some point in his life? I don’t know but the fact that I spent so much time wondering about it showed me how good a short story writer Mr. Lages is.

Some of the stories you really have to think about and some are rather funny and/or odd but all are going to stay with you for quite some time.

“Hula Ville and Other Short Stories” is definitely a wonderful anthology for short stories lovers and for those who might never have read a short story anthology and would like to try one.

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