My Twitter break the other day turned out to be a little longer than I’d intended. I’ve already mentioned, in my earlier post today, how I came across Simon Van der Velde and his forthcoming book Backstories – and then I saw the loveliest tweet from Zuzanne Belec…
Still smiling, I couldn’t think why Zuzanne’s name was so familiar – and then I remembered Mothers, her wonderful story that was one of the runners up in the “50 because I’m 50” short story competition run by Louise Beech in celebration of her birthday. You’ll find the story here, on Louise’s blog – and it’s now also one of the stories included in Zuzanne’s new collection, Layers, available now as an ebook (free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback.
I was keen to find out more…
Eight short stories on the power of the human spirit.
Layers is a debut collection of imaginative short stories celebrating life and the human spirit despite the ever-present spectre of melancholy in our lives today. With their distinctive blend of wit and humour, they light up any underlying darkness. From the Americas to India, from Africa to Europe, and through a range of genres, voices and styles, layers are unraveled, revealing the textures and contrasts of old and new in the environments and cultures of today’s fast-paced world. With vivid descriptions, we are drawn into enchanting worlds with characters that leap off the page, leaving the reader lingering long after the pages have been read.
Looks good, eh? Here’s some more information on the individual stories that make up the collection…
The Christmas Charge
Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari. At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?
When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?
All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise when things go wrong?
The Old Man and the Donkey
Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?
The Arctic Haze
Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?
Penny’s Purple Robot
A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?
Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.
Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world?
If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories.
And yes, I think it’s a collection I’d enjoy – and I’m so sorry I just couldn’t fit in the reading and share a review with you today. But I did find two lovely reviews I’d really like to share – to read the full reviews, please follow the hyperlinks to the blogs…
Zuzanne Belec is a well-travelled individual and her interest in other cultures and countries shows in her choice of settings and characters for her stories. Each of the eight stories is set in a different country and I enjoyed her rich descriptions of locations and the people we meet in them. I found these eight stories to be cleverly thought out, witty and very entertaining. Full of interesting characters and snippets of unexpected descriptive detail.
Some of the themes touched upon by the stories include mental illness, work/life prioritization, family stubbornness/forgiveness, facing our fears and making the most of every moment we have in life. As such they are probably of interest to a more mature adult audience – people who have begun to consider such subjects in their own lives – rather than younger readers. They will be enjoyed by people who have travelled and experienced other cultures and countries as well as those who enjoy experiencing travel from the comfort of their armchair.
Layers offers an eclectic mix of sub-genres, characters, plots, and settings. Not once while reading did I get bored. I loved how each story took me on a new adventure. The diversity of the settings and the depth of the themes made for a stimulating, unique read. The vibrant imagery helped make Layers all the more striking. The stories ranged from hilarious to sorrowful. I found it impressive that Belec was able to evoke such a wide range of emotions so expertly.
If you’d like to try more of Zuzanne’s writing, you might like to join her reader group – you’ll have the opportunity to download another of her short stories, The Unadorned. You’ll find the link on her excellent website.
Zuzanne, it was a pleasure to “meet” you – I do hope I’ll have the opportunity to try your writing in the future. And if you work out how to accomplish the cloning, you will let me know, won’t you?!
About the author
Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who now lives in the heart of Europe, after being lucky enough to spend her first thirty years absorbing the beauty and contrasting textures of Africa.
After she quit the rat race, she spent fifteen years as a translator before discovering the world of writing. This discovery, and the encouragement from her family and friends, led to her decision to delve even deeper into writing. She then grew a long grey beard and became a hermit, studying the craft and immersing herself into this world that is magic.
About the time when her beard reached ankle-length, she realised she was on the right path when three of her stories were published in Canadian literary magazines.
Layers is the result of this passion. And it is only the beginning…