Terms of Engagement: Stories of the Father and Son

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Short stories of fathers and sons. Their yearning for understanding and validation. Some stories are sad, but they all left me feeling a better understanding of this relationship dynamic I still don't understand too well. Paul Ruben writes with clarity and a humanness that captures my heart and mind. Wonderfully written.
Special thanks to NetGalley for sharing this book for an honest review.
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I received a copy of Terms of Engagement from Netgalley and this is my review. 

Terms of Engagement, written by  Paul Alan Ruben ,  is a collection of short stories that focuses on the father-son relationship. 

 I loved the writing, everything just flowed perfectly. I believe the author  conveyed whatever emotion he wanted to express in the stories perfectly. Some of them were a bit sad, but they all definitely made me “feel “ something.   Although I found the stories sad, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them. They were very deep and heartfelt and I thank the author for writing and sharing them.
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Normally with a collection of short stories the impact and enjoyment will vary from one story to another. One or two will hit the mark and others will be viewed with less enthusiasm. However I found each one of Paul Alan Ruben tales to be wonderfully crafted and profound in its examination of the troubled relationships that were being examined and dissected. Some stories are told from the point of view of the father while others are narrated either by the son or a combination of the two. A whole range of emotions are displayed including anger, regret, shame, hurt, sadness and sheer incomprehension as the failure to understand and even empathise fractures and destroys the possibilities of a functioning relationship. The lack of connection is both frightening and at the same time probably more common than is generally acknowledged.

The first story in the collection, "Father, Son, and the Holy Obit" will ultimately form a connection with the three related stories contained in the "Father and Son Triptych" as both the two troubled sons form a connection that will help them on the road to some kind of redemption and coming to terms with their past. The worst fear that one of these troubled souls has is that he may turn into his father. Beautifully written with a combination of sparseness and lyricism this is a powerful and uncomfortable read that will at times tug the readers heart strings. I would certainly recommend this insightful look into a fundamental human relationship.
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Wow.  Reading this was a powerful experience, maybe not for the faint of heart.

Ruben does not mess around.  His disposition and the economy of style necessary to the short story form mean that he gets to the heart of his characters and their conflicts quickly.  And these are conflicted characters, mostly fathers and sons.  They are seeking love and intimacy from one another, and it often does not go well.  

The first story in the collection, "Father, Son, and the Holy Obit" draws the reader right in to Ruben's themes, dealing with a son writing and rewriting his father's obituary. 

I especially appreciated the "Father and Son Triptych," three related short stories that together form a sort of novella.

This is a really sad collection but full of beautifully described male characters and much human yearning.  I think fans of Andre DuBus III will appreciate this collection.

With thanks to Larkin Books via NetGalley for the ARC.
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Terms of Engagement proves that the short story medium is alive and well, and introduces a new literary voice at the same time.  These stories dig under the skin and examine life.
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