Review of: Real Men Can Cry 

reviewed by maxcrisp on 07/26/2011
Credited Review
maxcrisp
Death in the Family Credited Review
This is a story based on the loss of a family member. A teenage boy arrives to live with his uncle, following the death of his parents. The topic chosen here is one of grief and the way humans deal with it, focusing particularly on the male rite of passage to manhood.

The story is very well staged. The writer has a clear grip on exactly what is happening at each moment, with the precision of a director. This puts the reader at ease, knowing they will not miss a detail.

At the same time, this precision causes the reader to walk on eggshells, never able to relax and let their eyes flow over the words, for fear of missing some elegant detail. I think it was Borge's who said that in a short story, every single last thing should bear some relevance, although I am not sure that is the case here. The result is a jarring between the voice and the narrative, particularly were some elements are foreshadowed, such as the 'five days prior' and the 'new family' (I'm not happy with this latter, as were family before, I ran with the possibility that this was an evacuee before stumbling over the 'Vanhorn men don't cry'). Lastly, I was not convinced by the boy, who we discover to be 15, saying 'relieved because he knew now that Davis did not hate him, he was dealing with his own grief.'

The pacing is nice. I enjoyed the original mixture between movement and reflection. Likewise the impact of the 'heart thumping out of his chest' combined with the splashes of colour in what was until then a very non descriptive piece.

Minor quibbles: train station... you mentioned train twice, you could drop the adjective.

You start a sentence 'although there was one house..' suggesting a contrast, but a contrast to what, you had just said 'blended in,' I don't see how blending in and having the second largest house (contrasted) fits in here.

Overall, the story has a strong punch and is based on a very touching moment. My main reserve is the coordination of the voice and narrative. I think that a good read out loud may help resolve this, and possibly recording and writing therefrom, as I think a different pace would get the reader more comfortable, possibly increasing the impact of the denouement.

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