(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“… the rest of the continent kept pouring in, sure of nothing but the fact that this pitiful life, this half-life with no jobs, no home, no money, would still be better than before, better than the life they left behind in whatever godforsaken place they’d come from.”
That would not be the case for a man known as “Kingdom” who crossed into South Africa, realizing that one could be reborn simply by crossing a border. This opening story featuring an enigmatic hitman grabbed me so fiercely that I was sure that the rest of the stories would be a letdown. I’m happy to say that I was wrong.
Another favorite story features a young Irishman with a sexual deformity to seek out acceptance in Berlin where “The stranger, the more perverse, the more outside the realm of so-called normal, the better.”
There is even a story that takes place in the future where Europeans desperately escape their famine-ridden continent for Africa where they are the unwelcome immigrants. There are just too many exceptional stories to mention, so I will stop here.
Stone Baby (the title of one of the stories) finds both the accepted and the marginalized facing varied situations challenging their secrets and personal character. These raw and emotional stories take place from Ireland to India to South Africa and beyond with protagonists from multiple generations. Many seemingly insignificant characters in one story play an important role in another.
It is difficult to create complex characters with sufficient backstory and satisfying conclusions in the short story format, but South African born author Michelle Sacks not only succeeds but excels with this.
The gritty and unforgiving Stone Baby is one of the best collections of short stories that I have read. A “must read now”!