&&, And Ampersand: Short Stories on Endings and Beginnings (of a Sort), by R.R. Campbell
27 pages, April 12, 2021
Publisher: Cedarbrook Books
Reviewed by Lisa Lickel
https://wiwrite.org/Sys/PublicProfile/56236339/4946371Ryan R. Campbell’s collection of eight very short pieces delivers on the promise of “Here, together, we’ll endure the shifting of the earth.”
Between one and three pages each, the stories explore the precipice that divides life from death, experience from naïveté, grief from joy. Campbell celebrates lyricism when he explains, “It’s sunrise coffee and footsteps on pavement, birdsong and blunder, woe at the hands of and triumph over oneself.”
The title piece, And Ampersand, imagines an ageless death that’s simply another beginning, perhaps a crossing from one age to another, a metamorphosis of responsibility or perception of maturity. “Your final breath escapes when the last of the magic leaves the world.”
Campbell’s tales imagine getting a redo at life with uncanny and sometimes disturbing fantasizing the moments of demise, and are rich with description: adrenaline tingling, seconds bleeding into eternity, treetops cowering and snow kissing roads. There are stories of introspection, mostly anonymous, some with named characters, but representative of anyone, everyone. Who doesn’t want to escape from natural disaster, or manmade disaster that comes with heart aching and heart breaking choices and regret?
The stories erupt from all walks of life and ages and stages of the participants. A single parent is dreadfully injured and needs to leave a message; a young husband wants to forgive; a youngster faces the reality of his fear; and a loss triggers a cycle of memories that immortalizes the one who’s passed on.
Beautifully expressed in controlled, tightly woven and sharply focused language, And Ampersand is sure to captivate readers of short literary fiction. Thoughtful and provocative.
Reviewer Lisa Lickel writes from the peaceful rolling hills of western Wisconsin. A multi-published, best-selling and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, occasional articles, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, and a freelance editor. She and her husband travel and enjoy family time.