Book Review: Fifty/Fifty and Other Stories By Matthew W. McFarland

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Fifty/Fifty and Other Stories is a collection of eleven outstanding short stories by Northern Irish author Matthew W. McFarland.

In ‘Fifty/Fifty,’ a policeman is called out to an attempted suicide on the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. His previous experience with ‘jumpers’ has led to one death and one life saved–his current record is fifty/fifty, but all that is about to change.

In ‘Defenestration,’ a man is thrown from the twelfth storey of a building in mysterious circumstances. As he falls towards almost certain death, he contemplates his fate, killer whales, flying cats, and the untapped potential of the human mind.

In ‘The Burning Bar,’ a man enters a burning building to rescue the love of his life, and becomes trapped, as the whole place collapses around him. Will he manage to escape before it is too late?

‘What Have You Done?’ deals with the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland, as a civil servant comes face to face with an ex-terrorist, leading him to discover how the previous generation coped with living through the worst of the Troubles.

These, and seven other stories, touching on sport, fatherhood, arachnophobia, faith, and cannibalism, make up an exciting collection of short fiction which will leave readers wanting more.

I enjoyed this book with 11 short stories. It was cool that some of his characters were shy (I can relate). The author has a degree in Psychology, and I can tell that he understands the inner-workings of the mind. Some of the stories had the concept of playing with the character’s head. My favorite type of stories are the ones that forces you to think and reflect; some of these definitely did that for me.

“The Burning Bar”–What is a musician’s greatest love? Joe ran into a building, burning in flames, to risk his life for his love. With the way it was narrated, I assumed it was his wife or girlfriend. I liked the twist of the love reveal.

“Defenestration”–My favorite line: “It’s funny sometimes the things that go through your head.” A fight happened at a crowded party, so a guy stood outside on the balcony. I enjoyed his narration because he was very analytical. It was cool the way he tried his hand in dream interpretation, and he wondered if he could survive the fall as though he’d be lucky like a cat.

“Lansdowne Road”–This was action-packed, covering a play by play rugby game. It was a victory for Ireland.

“Christmas with the Kids”–This was one of my favorites. I laughed so hard at the humorous situation Jacob was in. He got stuck babysitting someone else’s kids. The author was great with description, so I could picture the scenario vividly in my head. Those kids were a trip!

“What Have You Done?”–My favorite line: “He didn’t care what my response was; he just wanted to voice his opinions.” This story opened up with suspense–a guy attended a presentation with ex-convicts in the audience. One of them was creepy and stalkerish. Later, the story allows the character to reflect on how that ex-convict’s crime affected his and his sister’s lives as children, as well as his parents.

“Saints and Streetlights”–My favorite line: “I stood there, reeling from the surreal nature of the conversation and the abruptness with which it came to an end.” After attending a wedding, the character gets into a taxi where the driver talks about religion, reminiscing about a place he had visited.

“Wee Tiny Spiders”–This story was about creepy crawlers invading a person’s home. They were obsessed with spiders. The descriptions were vivid that the hairs on my skin raised; I kept thinking a spider would crawl on me LOL. Towards the end, the character started sounding crazy, to the point I thought they were schizo.

“The Bicycle”–This was a cute and sweet story. A man’s bicycle hangs up on the garage wall until he decides to ride with Sam, who’s only 4. The man reminisces about how he saved up for his very first bike and of the trips he went on. I thought it was cute, paralleling how Sam’s rides go.

“The Seventeenth Door”–This was one of my favorites. Charlotte works for the Census. She has to knock on an old, sweet lady’s door because she never filled out the form. Let me tell  ya, the lady had me fooled as a reader. I loved the twist of when Charlotte entered the home, she was in immediate danger. What happened to her was truly gross. I loved the creepiness of the story–the scariest ones are the stories that can happen in real life. In real life, you can run into crazy people!

“Plastic Golf”–The main character studied golf since childhood. He is was very good with his technique, then as a teen, he lost interest of the game. In college and adulthood, he started playing again in an attempt to bond with his dad.

“Fifty/Fifty”–This story was one of my favorites. A man gets a dispatch for an attempted suicide on the bridge. Heavy traffic that day. He reminisces about his record, 50/50. In the past, one person he saved; the other one actually jumped. The entire time I worried about the choice the pregnant woman would make. The baby’s daddy wanted nothing to do with her or the baby, and she was afraid to face everything alone. I loved the drama aspect of it all.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

For more information on the book or author:

  • Author Page @ Amazon and Goodreads
  • Twitter @ mcfarlandwriter
  • Email:  matthew_mcfarland(AT)outlook(DOT)com

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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