The Theft by Andrew Allen Smith
As I read, I often notice that those delicate moments in between the plot explosions and character epiphanies can be far more powerful than the obvious action or dialogue. Sometimes those spaces lead the reader into the madness of the story... but sometimes, they lead to pure ecstasy hidden in the pause. It's the writer's alchemy that balances the two with gentle finesse. This requires practice and devotion to the craft if they want the reader to give up the real world for the one they have created... if only for an hour or two.
I have found this exquisite balance time and again in the writings of Andrew Allen Smith. Recently, I discovered his first anthology of short stories, The Theft, and was impressed with the collection's impact. This skill in mixing emotion and action, the intensity of gentleness, and the surprise result of mistaken expectations, is clearly something he mastered years ago.
The title story, The Theft, brilliantly captured the anxiety of a moment of fear for someone who deserved it. In this story, he combines the imagination of desire as a motivation, only to have that same imagination act as the betrayer. Most memorable for me in this piece was the strong auditory storytelling. I heard every sound in crisp, clear moments. I'm especially impressed with Andrew's skill in this area, as sound is an element I find missing in far too many books.
Two pieces, Christmas and The Portrait found a strong resonance within me, and in fact, moved me to tears. The delicate way in which Andrew reveals deep emotion inside the thought of a gift or the tender way a painter holds a brush and mixes paint is magical. Because he is thoughtful with the vocabulary he chooses, Andrew imparts tremendous depth with simple elegance. Words are not wasted. The reader can hear the character's thoughts in between the words printed on the page... feel the electricity of emotion... and understand a perspective that perhaps seemed initially unclear.
The catnip Andrew dangled before me, in the taunting of several full works he will one day complete, was anticipation on steroids. I was sucked into these stories, finding myself fully invested in the magic, the character's motivation, the unexpected satisfaction of violence in certain situations, and the quickening of my breath as I read the last sentence of each. I am thrilled with these glimpses into stories that I know will arrive in my hands one day... and I am equally annoyed that I have to wait to discover how they end.
Patience is a difficult thing when you endure such temptations. Satisfaction is realized when I remember Andrew has many other stories that I can enjoy in the meantime. Thank goodness for that!
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