Often it has been said that it is far more difficult to write a short story than it is to pen a full-length novel. If this is true, Valorie M. Taylor makes the task look easy with her debut, Secrets of Gingerbread Men, a collection of three well-written short stories. Each novella centers on an African American man who is dealing with tough but realistic life challenges, and each faces his dilemmas by referring back to a Christian upbringing.
In “Hand Me Downs,” Kendrick’s world seems to be closing in on him. He is having a hard time dealing with his roommate’s apparent suicide and struggling with the news from his doctor that confirms his worst fears. The time has come to make amends with his family and initiate contact with his three brothers, all of whom he has not spoken to in several years. When he sends each of them a bold, in-your-face letter revealing his secrets, he never expects them to show up at his door. Of the trio of stories, “Hand Me Downs” is the most gripping. The author captures the essence of inner conflict and brotherhood while presenting real emotions that jump off the page.
“The Marriage Bed” is the most touching story, resembling a typical romance. Steven and Camille Torrance are the ultimate couple with a powerful love that is obvious to most. They meet the Galtons at the church they recently joined. When the Galtons come over, they ask to pray for Steve and Camille in the most important room in their home. Before they know it, the four are praying at the foot of the Torrances’ bed. An unusual place to pray with friends, but their bed is prayed over nonetheless. When tragedy strikes and marriage gets tough, interestingly it is the prayer at their bed that provides the glue to hold the family together. Readers looking for a great love story will adore “The Marriage Bed.” The characters are genuine with real issues and a real love.
In “Gingerbread Men,” Garrett Hunter is an attractive, educated computer programmer, who appears to have it all. However, when his ex-girlfriend, who happens to be white, takes him for a drive, causes an accident and dies at the scene, he is questioned as a suspect. The lead detective, whose wife left him for a black man, is out for blood. Garrett runs to his hometown in search of understanding and a closer relationship with God. While he thinks he’s in a safe haven, secrets of the past, of him being a “gingerbread man,” threaten his future happiness.
While this final story is the most engaging and touches on controversial themes, I was a bit disappointed at the revelation of what a “gingerbread man” is. It just did not seem to be that big of a deal, especially in today’s society. Despite this one flaw, Taylor’s ability to essentially delve into the male psyche and accurately portray men and their vast array of feelings is impressive. I highly recommend this collection of stories and look forward to the next work from this talented author.