Gravity Proof… A New Universal Law… Zone State and Other Unusual Short Stories: A Book Review

“Gravity Proof… A New Universal Law… Zone State and Other Unusual Short Stories”
by Karl G. Blass
Reviewed by Ben Charles
ISBN: 9871775110705
CDN $19.99

“Gravity Proof… A New Universal Law… Zone State and Other Unusual Short Stories”, written by Karl G. Blass is the result of a delightful passion project from a truly brilliant mind. As a scientist by trade, the Austrian-born Karl G. Blass has made a new trail for himself with the release of this short story series. That being said, Blass is no stranger to publications as he has been published and patented over eighty times throughout his career on various topics within the field of Clinical Biochemistry. After obtaining a PhD and an M. Sc. from the University of Windsor in the 1970s, Blass went on to become a professor of chemistry at the University of Regina and a clinical biochemist at the Regina General Hospital from the mid-seventies until the new millennium.
Blass’ aptitude for the sciences rings loud and clear in the first chapter of this book, named “Gravity Research Stories”. By the author’s own admission, the third chapter is the most appropriate place of the book to start if the reader is seeking a casual short story experience. The first chapter, however, is a thought experiment that challenges the reader to consider how gravity functions within the context of the reality in which we live. I must admit that Blass’ explanations of slow-motion states, atom density, repulsion forces, and Einstein’s theories were over my head, but I found them to be fascinating thought experiments, nonetheless. I would recommend that anyone with even a passing interest in physics and the sciences check this book out for the first two chapters alone.
Although the book begins with the fruits of a mind well-versed in the fields of science and research, the following chapters are rife with stories from the author’s fencing career, as well as anecdotes of his personal life and the Old Country. A personal favourite of mine comes with a brief story of his grandfather being a respected hunter both in the Old World and the New but promised his wife a fur coat made of coyote. After many unsuccessful attempts of finding one in the harsh Saskatchewan winters of the 1920s, he finally sees two within firing range. Unfortunately, it was also when he was driving his wife ten miles by horse and carriage to the doctors due to a hand injury and never did get his Saskatchewan coyote. The book is also filled with tales of drama and gossip from the University of Regina and a cool introspection into the budding years of the institution.
“A Gravity Proof…” is testament to the fact that academic and creative writing need not be two separate entities. Blass has created a truly one-of-a-kind literary experience that both stimulates the mind and tickles the soul. It seamlessly transitions from complex physics equations and tense fencing duals to the mundane but observant quips on the English language and life in Saskatchewan. This is a must-read for those seeking a unique literary experience.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

The Loudest Voices

The loudest voices
talk the most and
say the least.
The loudest voices
cause deaf ears.
It does not bother them,
so long as their sound does not cease.

Cease and desist,
or at least try to resist,
the urge to be the loudest voice in the room.
This is best off learned now, learned soon.
The boisterous bask in their self-righteousness
and close their eyes while they clamor in empty victory.

It is the silent that are content to be acorns,
laying in the shadows and soaking the lessons scorned.
Patient, content.
Knowing that an Oak tree will be mighty in the ground
without ever making a sound.

Turn My Mind Off

What goes up,
must come down.

What comes around,
goes around.

Fiesty fatigue feasts
on original obligations.
Greedily glued to the game.
Anointed to an apex.

Where are my next steps?

Aren’t I always in motion?
Will day not always become night?
Can I not do anything without reactionary notions?
Can I not get out of light?
I’m going to try my best to not be on,
time to turn my mind off.

Au Revoir à Rien

Sometimes I wonder what’s in the dark.

Sometimes I wonder what lurks behind closed eyes.

Does the world end with a nap?
Or does the soul emerge from the mortal cocoon,
shedding the drudgery, the prejudice, the shackles of our pathetic past?

What was I supposed to do here?
I’ve been told that I need to find my Dad.
I called out for him, he went out for a jug of milk.
So I shrug and I sulk.
What’s the purpose of finding a purpose? I’d be dead lyin’ if I didn’t say that my deadline happening at any moment makes me feel alive.
Bless my poor little heart and the stress that I put it through
Earth returns to earth.
My hot blood spurts a scorching statement, it spits in the face of chance.

Fuck you and your comfort.
I’d rather be full of piss and vinegar
than full of regret.
Fuck me and my polite reserves
this is my life, it belongs to me.
I’d rather ruffle some feathers
than be a bird in a cage.

Stay on guard
Stay pissed off.
Smile in the face of anxiety
We chose half-truths and easy answers
over hard decisions
over rethinking our biases.

We chose of life of being
Docile, infertile.
Medicated, sedated.
tame, lame.
simple, limp.
Formulaic, archaic.

 

Choose life.

 

A Bright Man.

I don’t follow the newest news.
I don’t know how to say no.
I may not be a bright man,
but I do have some light, man.

How can I be well-read
without and good-reads?
How can I be a leader
and not tell another where to be led?

Is that a revelation?
The word reveals nothing, much ado.
Is that a revolution?
The world doesn’t revolve around you.
Is that evolution?
Stagnation loves having nothing to do.

Change takes time
But we take no time to change.

 

The Oxen

The days pass him by with
the heat on his back.
The dirt in his face.
Sweat on his brow. 

He plows on
and on, and on.

With the sun’s faithful glow
and the rain’s nurturing gifts
The Oxen begins to watch his fields grow,
his labor yields a great bounty
as the seasons start to shift.
Much to The Oxen’s dismay,
the farmer takes him away.
To the corral, he goes,
just as he knows.
While the field is harvested and razed.

The grain is now stored in bins as tall as the sky,
The farmers are now fat and happy on bread, beer and rye.
While The Oxen shivers in his frozen stall
he begins to wonder if this is worth it at all.
The Oxen rests on his haystack prize.

The sun has returned, all is now well.
The soil and grass lift his spirit with their uplifting smell.
The Oxen prepares himself to return to work
when reality gives him a conspicuous jerk.
The farmer has sold him to dig trenches and wells.

The Oxen has given all that he can give.
Can one fear death when one hasn’t lived?
Hooven pads collapse in the mud.
Bladed whips lash into his blood.
The Oxen rises. Now a frail, crimson sieve.

The days pass him by
with the heat on his back.
The dirt in his face.
Sweat on his brow. 

He plows on
and on, and on.

The Worst Thing Ever: LoveBookOnline

As I have been contributing to this little writing project of mine for the past year and a half I have also been thinking about the name, Soapbox Stories. Admittedly I had named this project as such as I thought it had a nice ring to it and never thought much about the implications. Soapbox Stories implies an outcry, a message that must be heard with a hint of self-righteousness. While my poetry has plenty of that, I feel that it would be fun to increase my writing output (and self-righteousness) with an occasional opinion piece.

This is why I am proud to present “The Worst Thing Ever”, in which I will finally get on my soapbox and rant about the things in life that irk me, annoy me, and that I generally see asininity or pointlessness in. Be advised that these are my personal opinions and that I will NOT be covering anything on politics and religion. Facebook is basically all people who have no idea what they’re talking about getting mad about politics and religion, I suggest that you go there if you want to see that.

That being said, it should come as no surprise that the first source of my documented contempt comes from that soulless website of normies and relatives that you are the only kind of lukewarm about. As I was scrolling through the wasteland one day, I stumbled across this ad. Usually, I can shrug off personalized ads well enough but this one insulted my intelligence and basic human dignity with such a vengeance that it has permanently burnt into my psyche. Naturally, I must pass this assault of decency, courtesy of LoveBookOnline, on to you:

asininebook
Romance is real, ladies.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, imaginary person who I think is actually reading this. You’re thinking, “This doesn’t seem that bad. What’s the big deal?” Let’s begin with the major sticking point in this atrocity, look at the writing on the book to the left. “P.S. Can you please read this book if we ever get it in a fight? That way, you will remember exactly how I feel about you and hopefully, forgive me more quickly :-).” Am I the only person who can see what a sneaky and manipulative move that this is? It’s not even like it’s a sneaky move that takes a lot of effort such siphoning her funds through small increments. That is sleazy, sure, but at least that takes much more effort and intelligence than this shit. This tripe that LoveBookOnline actually sells for real, human money is about as romantic and likely to end in sex as pulling out a Diva Cup. The laziness on both the creator and buyer’s part of this is on par with the loveless, 50-second missionary sex that will ensue while she’s thinking about what flavor of yogurt she’ll be bringing to lunch the next day.

To reiterate, if I get into my fight with my fiancée here are my options:

a)  Try to understand why she is upset and apologize. Then grow as a person and act less selfishly to change the ways that I act that upset her.

b) Go out to get a jug of milk and a pack of cigarettes.

c) Buy a personalized book with a transparent cop-out so I don’t have to do any of the work mentioned in a).

Let’s push aside the stupidity and obvious toxicity of that quote alone for a moment and concentrate on the concept itself, again. When I was six or seven years old my aunt and uncle bought me a personalized book about a boy that had to team up with a bunch of farm animals to find a rooster. While I appreciated the gift, even at that age I could tell that it was cheesy. Could you imagine gifting an adult person that you pay bills together with something on that same level? A person who seriously believes that this is an appropriate gift for someone who’s presumably seen their genitals has to be the kind of person that throws dishes away because they don’t want to clean them. Like who is the target audience?

Look, there’s nothing wrong with treating your significant other with gifts and gestures that are corny. There is nothing wrong with writing them a cheesy poem every now and then, getting them a dumb stuffed animal because you were thinking about them or even doing the chore you know that they hate (for the love of God though, don’t make them an IOU coupon book). If you love your partner, then why pay some asshole to tell your story for you? If you were dead-set on making you partner a little personal book to remind them of why you care for them so much, wouldn’t it be a lot more intimate and special if it was something that you made completely from the heart? It won’t matter if you can draw well or not, as if the cheap drawings would be hard to top, something that you wrote by yourself would be far more meaningful than this shit. This pandering, lazy and phony faux-romantic gesture is both an insult to corny romance writing and to romance itself. At least you can write your own message in a Hallmark card. An evening of watching your boyfriend scratch his balls and sniff them after every time while he plays Call of Duty would be more romantic than this. R. Kelly’s cell is more romantic than this. I have a higher standard for my love life than something that you can cut-and-paste, and I hope that you do, too. This is why this is the Worst Thing Ever.

Smothered

Breathless gasps
above raging waves.
Hapless grasps
slipping on the reigns.

A race that I cannot win,
A weight that I cannot lift.
Too little forgiveness of sin,
Too much space in this rift.

Pushed down,

down,

down.

Expected to rise.

I will drown
in the quicksand.
Small grains build muffled screams and burning eyes.

Throw me a rope.
Throw me a hand.

To get here you must have been a dope.
At least pretend like you understand.

Tar on my heels,
tar in my head.

I’m sorry if that’s the way you feel.
Maybe try growing up instead?

Smothered

Like a mother who won’t let go.

Undiscovered

Like under a dusty vinyl cover, the contents hidden and stowed.

The City Man

The morning had become afternoon an hour ago as the sun’s intense rays pierced through the holes in Jacob’s walls and persisted to assault his face and eyes. Despite his best efforts to ignore the day and sleep it off, it had become too much. He pushed his blanket off his beaten body. Those birds weren’t helping with all of their damned yapping, either. Couldn’t they shut up for just another few moments?

Jacob Mann reeked of whiskey and “the odour of hard workin’ man”, as he liked to put it. Other ranchers in the Chela district had lesser words of Jacob’s scent, and of his work ethic. He planted his bare feet on the wooden planks below his bed and stretched his small frame as far as it would go. Whether he liked it or not, today was another day and there was work to be done.

The work would have to wait a few hours before he could get to it. His head was killing him and it was way too hot to be out in the fields this afternoon. Only a fool would be out breaking their backs in this kind of heat. Not him, though. He wasn’t stupid.

First thing was first, he needed a drink of water. He stumbled to the canteen on the table and squeezed every drop out of the small leather sack. Drops of water clung to his beard and he contorted his tongue to find each and every bead. He patted his pockets to ensure that he hadn’t lost anything to the night before. He thought that he should maybe change his clothes but decided that there was no one here to impress. Besides, the pocket in the shirt he had on had exactly what he had been looking for – his pipe. He plopped himself down on a wooden chair and lit the half-burnt tobacco inside. All he had to do now is have a pipe while he waited out this heat, check on his sheep in the evening, and head over to The Pig’s Head after a day of honest work.

The embers of Jacob’s pipe smoldered out as he did on his wooden chair. His buzz-saw snoring droned on for what seemed like hours. The peace of the first break of his workday was suddenly broken by loud thuds on his door. Jacob’s foot nearly met his chin as he flew off the chair and onto his back.

The knocks on the door were relentless as Jacob pulled himself off of the floor. An aggressive voice pierced through Jacob’s walls.

“Jacob Mann, Mr. Jacob Mann! Open the door this instant! In the name of the Chela District Diplomacy, you will answer the calls of the court or face persecution!”

Jacob stumbled to the door and flung his door open to the unforgiving wrath of the sunlight. After rubbing his eyes, Jacob looked upon the man. The man stood tall, his black hair slicked back diligently and his clothes too pristine for the Chela Plains. He even wore a watch on his belt. The gleam of his shoes shone just as brightly as the sun itself. Jacob knew what kind of man he was dealing with – this was a city man.

“What’re you flappin’ your gums about, son?” Jacob asked as his hand slid up the frame of his now open door.

“You know damn well what I’m ‘flapping my gums about’, Mr. Mann. My name is Sam Braser and I represent the Chela District Diplomacy and we have been waiting for far too long for your Grazing and Ranching Taxes.”

“Go on then, Sam,” Jacob replied.

“Do you think that you are above paying taxes as your fellow ranchers do? Do you feel good about yourself for not paying the mandatory fees?”

Jacob did not have his arm pressed against the door just for balance, he was aware of the Chela District’s laws regarding open doors. So long as the doorway was not open for the city man, he could not enter without a warrant. This was not met with a lack of trying. The ornery man attempted to enter the home and Jacob pushed him back with a palm to the chest.

“Let’s just hold on for a second, son. Are you employed with the Chela District Diplomacy or are you a contractor?”

“I represent the Chela District Diplomacy.”

“You didn’t answer the question. Are ya or ain’t ya?”

“I’ve been contracted by the C.D.D. as a private collector on all outstanding taxes and to find evasive debtors, like yourself, Mr. Mann.”

“Evasive? I’m standing right here, ain’t I, Mr. City Man? Y’all know where to find me. As for these alleged taxes, I sent mine in at least two months ago. I suggest that you go back to the government that’s got your manhood and you tell ’em to bugger off.”

Jacob went to close the door, “Besides, you ain’t got any real authority here.”

Sam clasped the door and struggled to keep it from closing, underestimated the frail-looking rancher’s strength.

“Regardless, Mr. Mann, I have been sent here to do a job. I will not be leaving your side until you pay what you owe. My provisions are with me and I have been instructed to gather the funds by any means necessary within the law. I can be here for a long, long time.”

Jacob relented and rubbed his temporal. He was too tired for this nonsense and just wanted to get back to the work that he was doing.

“Fine. What do you need to get out of here and back into whatever hole you crawled out of?”

“Eleven hundred.”

“Eleven hundred? I can barely clear that in a season. Where in Ariel’s name am I supposed to get that kind of scratch together?”

“That sounds like a “you” problem, Mr. Mann. All I know is that I will not be leaving until the debt is paid.”

Jacob Mann had a plan.

“I can see that you traveled a long way to just to harass me, Mr. Braser. You’re also a very persistent fellow, which is a rare virtue to see on the job these days…”

“Just get to the point,” the man seethed.

“How would you like to get all of the money that you’re owed and then some?”

“And how do you propose that?”

“A Raven’s nest. It is not but a few miles East of here. It will have all kinds of treasures. Enough to settle the debt and more. Might even be enough to buy yourself a new personality.”

Sam snarled but bit his tongue. Based on the rancher’s abode and demeanor, this nest was the best chance to bring at least something back to his employers.

“Show me the way, rancher. But if you try to weasel out this in any way, so help me I will murder you where you stand.”

“I doubt that. What I don’t doubt is that I want you off of my property and I’m guessing that you aren’t too crazy about spending time with me. Let’s get a move on, shall we?”

Sam mounted his horse while Jacob packed the few provisions that they would need for the journey and they rode out. Sam spent most of the journey gritting his teeth and stewing over all of the better things that he could be doing at the moment. Occasionally, this would be interrupted by Jacob’s off-key singing while he strutted on his donkey. Sam could not help but crack a smile at it, he had dealt with many debtors in his day but never any this carefree. He must have been confident in the riches this Raven’s nest and of his abilities as a thief. How else would he be this nonchalant about this ordeal? Sam shuddered to think what the Ravens would do to somebody if they caught them stealing in their nest. Even though Sam was a city man, he knew that a man who stole from Ravens was as good as dead.

The open fields of Jacob’s ranch seemed more-and-more of a distant memory as the embrace of the forest became thicker. Jacob pressed on as if the branches were not a constant nuisance but Sam had difficulty in doing so. At seemingly every moment Sam was spitting out bugs, keeping the wooden whips from slapping his face and feeling the sticky sap invade his clothing. He had wished that his agency had insisted that he wear these fancy clothes at all times, they never did understand how diverse this job could be. He bet that Jacob never had a demeaning boss who never listened or would kick him while he was down at every opportunity. Jacob may be in debt, but Sam figured that the rancher was far more a free man than Sam was.

Sam’s horse had not been as deep in thought as his rider and jerked to a halt. They had made it to a clearing in the center of the forest. The thickets had subsided but the moss was like plush carpeting and the mushrooms of the forest floor were bigger than a large man’s fist. It was the most peaceful place that Sam had seen The absolute silence was a far cry from the bustle of the city and the offices that he was used to. He felt at peace and oddly grateful to Jacob for bringing him here. If only he had met this odd rancher over different circumstances.

“Well, what you lookin’ like a pig pissin’ for?” Jacob said as he pointed to the massive pine nearby, “this is the place, all we gotta do is climb to the top and you’ve earned your payment.”

“I certainly can’t climb a tree in my duds,” Sam said. “It’s your debt, Mr. Mann, if this is the jackpot that you claim it to be, you go retrieve it.”

Jacob gave a shrug that said ‘that’s what I thought’ and began to climb the gargantuan tree. His hands and feet guided him ever upward without so much as a change in his expression. It was obvious to Sam that this man had raided this nest many times before. There had to have been valuables in this nest before to come all of this way for it. Maybe this rancher wasn’t completely full of it?

The rancher reached the foot of the nest and peered down on the dot that was now the taxman. Poor boy in his Sunday best. Now, it was time to find a treasure to get this peon out of his life. Jacob stumbled into the nest and fumbled around in the bed of feathers and branches. Ravens are as jealous as they are greedy. If they have shiny things, they will bury it away from the prying eyes of other murders. Jacob began to frisk the nest: stick, stick, piece of fur, feather, stick. Finally, Jacob felt something man-made, he felt glass. His arm withdrew a half bottle of scotch. The label had been torn off years ago, but the bottle was nice and after a quick taste test Jacob confirmed that it was very fine scotch. That was good enough for him, but not for his friend on the ground. He slipped the bottle into his coat pocket and continued to dig. The search had begun to feel fruitless until Jacob spotted a gleaming piece of steel sticking from a corner of the nest. He snatched the bit of hope up like a hungry dog to scraps only to find a bracelet of bone and brass. These bracelets were usually made by farmwives to be sold at local markets in the region and were as common as a bowl of stew. They were cheaper too, everybody in Chela knew that. However, the ornery sucker on the ground probably didn’t. He slipped the bracelet into his pocket and made his descent.

“Are you ever in luck! I cannot lie, I did not suspect that this nest would much of anything up, but am I ever glad to be wrong.”

Jacob withdrew the bracelet from his pocket and hoisted it above his head like as if it were a prized fish.

“That,” Sam scoffed. “That is the big-time payday that you drug me through this for? This what I ruined my clothing and nearly killed my horse for?”

“Quit yer bellyaching. If you were nearly two-thousand years old you wouldn’t look nearly as good as this fine jewelry.”

“Fine jewelry? That is about as a fine as an old mule. You’re going to have to do better than that, Mr. Mann.”

“I suppose that you are right, Sam. I’m sure that the Ravens don’t steal anything of value, certainly not a warrior bracelet from the First Age. I’ll just hang on to this and work off the debt over the next several months. You are welcome to bunk with me until then.”

“Hold on, debtor,” Sam interjected. “I can accept the bracelet as a beginning payment. I will need it appraised to see if it is worth what you claim.”

Jacob relinquished the bracelet to Sam.

“There’s a jewelry appraiser and pawnbroker just West of Noird. He’s a lowballer but if you tell him that you represent the C. D. D. he’ll be a bit more inclined to give you a fair estimate to get you out of his hair. Doesn’t like the eyes of the law and the government on him too much, that one.”

“Very well, Mr. Mann,” Sam said as he took in one last look on the pristine forest floor. “Let’s get out of this Godless bush.”

The duo returned to Jacob’s ranch home. The afternoon heat had begun to subside as clear blue skies transformed to fantastic shades of violet and crimson. Sam had truly hoped that the bracelet was the First Age relic that Jacob had claimed it to be but another part of him hoped that he had a reason to escape the city and return to the ranch. His training had instructed him to treat every debtor as less than dirt but he had a hard time doing that to Jacob now. He could not help but have a soft spot for the old lush.

Sam bid the rancher a goodbye and rode over the hills. Jacob let out a sigh of relief. For the time being, he could live another day without some snotty city kid breathing down his neck. Now, it was time to get back to work. He plopped back down in the chair that he had flipped off of hours ago and began to rest his eyes.

Jacob found himself flying head over heels again as his house rattled with the force of one thousand earthquakes. The assaults on his home ranged from deafening wing beats, planks flying off his walls and sharp beaks easily piercing the roof. He ran outside to find three Ravens hovering above the now destroyed shack.

“Hey! What’s your trouble, you home-wrecking cretins?”

The leader of the bunch dropped to Jacob’s feet with such a tremendous impact that the dust of the dry land blew into his face. The Raven’s claws burrowed into the dirt with rage. The great bird towered over the rancher, he leaned in to bring his beak nearly to his eyes.

“Our ‘trouble’, little man, is that you have stolen from us. Did you expect us not to notice that our precious treasures were gone? Return them to us, at once!”

Jacob withdrew and lit his pipe, looking upon the Raven with an apathetic expression.

“I don’t know about that one, it’s a bit of a stretch if you ask me. Here’s what happened – you see that fancy boy on your way over here? The clean lookin’ fella with the watch hangin’ off his belt? He came ’round here this morning hootin’ and hollerin’ that everything and everyone on this here land owes taxes. Y’all being the intelligent birds that you are, that includes you, according to him.”

“Taxes?”

“You betchya. I tried to stop him but I’m afraid that the fella was insistent. Didn’t think too highly of y’all, either. I think I heard him call you something along the lines of ‘black disease-bags’.”

“Is that so? I am to believe that you had nothing to do with this? This city man just knew where our nest was?”

The Raven stepped closer and closer to the rancher’s eyes, pushing him back.

“I realize that we’ve had our differences in the past but this isn’t like that. I watched the city man take a worthless bracelet and a quarter bottle of booze. He took it for taxes but what on Earth would I do with that?”

“It isn’t worthless to us. Are your words true, rancher?”

“Of course they are. I’ve been nothing but respectful to the Ravens and have even helped you find treasures before if you care to remember. You find the city man, you find your treasures.”

The Raven signaled the two members of his murder off to scout for the tax collector.

“Listen to me and listen well, rancher. We will find this ‘city man’ and bring him to justice. If we find out that you are lying to us we will be back to you bring justice, as well.”

“You find the right guy and I guarantee that your return here will not be necessary.”

“We will see about that,” the Raven said as his mighty wings slammed one last gust of dirt into Jacob’s face.

Jacob watched the Raven transform from a vengeful giant to a black sliver in the sky. He withdrew the bottle of scotch from his breast pocket and took a swig. Perhaps the Raven and the taxman will be problems that will take care of themselves. Then again, perhaps they won’t be. In the meantime, Jacob watched the sunset and had realized that his workday was done. It was time to go to the Pig’s Head Tavern. With any luck that hunter that he hired every now and then would still be there. The guy is a bit of self-righteous blowhard but he’s in a tough spot, he needs Jacob’s advice now more than anybody. Jacob mounted his donkey and began his journey over to the bar. The rancher’s work was never done.

 

 

Baggage – A Book Review

“Baggage”
by Wendy Phillips
Published by Coteau Books
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$14.95 9781550509700

“Baggage”, written by Wendy Phillips and published by Coteau Books is a fantastic teen read that covers dark themes with the seriousness that fits the subject matter and a narrative device that is relevant to young readers.

The story begins at the Vancouver airport and is set in British Columbia as a young, unidentified foreign boy is found near International Arrivals by a Canadian high school teacher named Ms. Nelson and one of her students Brittany. The boy has no family or friends in sight, no identification and appears to be malnourished. To make matters worse, he does not speak any languages that anyone in the airport understands. Understandably concerned, the teacher takes the boy to the customs office only to find that their only solution is to deport the boy as he is unidentified and claim that he may not even be protected by child protection laws. They take the boy, Thabo, into their homes to protest the deportation and to protect him at all costs. It is now up to Ms. Nelson, Brittany, her sister Leah, and their friend Kevin to inspire their school and their community to keep Thabo in Canada.

The novel is written in such a unique manner that is appropriate for young readers and undeniably poetic. Rather than following a traditional novel structure, the story instead progresses with short perspectives from each main character, including Thabo. At first, Thabo is a complete mystery, only short memories and actions that other characters notice provide a window into his young but troubled life. As Leah, the sister of the politically involved Brittany begins to learn Thabo’s native tongue the reader begins to get a glimpse into Thabo’s life. After Thabo takes sanctuary with a frustrated minister in the local church, disaster strikes and Thabo is taken by those that had abandoned him at the airport. The teenage characters Leah, Kevin, and Brittany showcase their true bravery as they go to rescue their new friend Thabo. The reader also learns that the community’s fears are real, that Thabo is a victim of human trafficking.

In conclusion, “Baggage” is a great read for a young reader to explore different writing styles and an enlightening adventure for adults that can be read within a day. Even though almost every page is from the perspective of a different character, the narrative works splendidly within this style. Phillips treats the reader to both a cohesive story and to truly breathtaking character development that stays with the reader long after the final page has closed.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM