Reviewed by: Rebecca Ross Klosinski, Pacific Book Review
The cleverly titled A Box of Shorts is a collection of seven short stories by author Mike Proko that introduce readers to an unlikely mix of characters in a series of detailed vignettes. From a young boy who discovers the first stirrings of passion for the opposite sex, to a golfer with long lost dreams, to a fictional President of the United States, A Box of Shorts explores a variety of personalities, subject matter, and styles.
Each short story in the collection gives readers a brief glimpse into the lives of men and women who are dealing with life (and death) the best way they know how. In “A Song For Lena,” Chester spends his last days reflecting on his career as a jazz musician and the one that got away. While Dr. Peter comes back from the beyond long enough to reassure his daughter that her life is on the right path in “A Father’s Gift.” Four of the seven stories examine the theme of death and what it means to live until that moment comes.
The highlight of this volume is most certainly “The McFuddles.” Though inconsistencies in tense and an unconventional use of dialogue formatting pop up throughout A Box of Shorts, these things go virtually unnoticed in “The McFuddles”, the tale of Malcolm “Grandy” McFuddle and his “bigger than life” existence in the tiny town of New Morales, Texas. Here Proko chooses a Texan dialect that, while not pitch perfect to the trained Texan ear, is thoroughly enjoyable and adds an element of fun and authenticity to the story. Here we see a certain wit that is unique to the collection and a grab bag of characters that readers can connect with.
While a few of the stories, such as “The Only Practical Solution” and “The Light Through the Stained Glass Window” may make readers slightly uncomfortable due to their mildly graphic nature, the collection as a whole is well thought out, descriptive, and strives to inspire reflection.
A book delving into the themes of life and death, A Box of Shorts is an overall pleasant read with a few less memorable stories and one clear standout in “The McFuddles”.