Blowing up Walmart and other Florida and California Stories is a collection of short stories, poems and a play. Many of the stories share a common theme of life in sunny communities where retirees reign, while others explore the intricacies of family relationships.
In the title story, “Blowing Up Walmart,” a pair of senior women protest a Walmart that was built on an already congested corner, contributing to the deaths of two “elderly inhabitants who were riding their tricycles” nearby. The story ends with a bang — literally — and has a certain poignancy about the injustices of aging, but it’s humorous, too, with cantankerous but likeable characters. As the two protesters embark on their latest mission to picket Walmart, for example, Pentecost writes, “In Belle’s jalopy, we smoke ultra lights, puffing our way down the street and waving the smoke out the windows in good health practice.”
“The Gypsy in My Soul,” one of the collection’s most fully realized tales, is the quest by one woman to determine her ancestry, while “Self Esteem” examines the tricky dance between an African American teacher and a failing, white student. The play “The Cat Box” features a happily dysfunctional family led by a mother who is lousy at keeping house.
Pentecost possesses a sharp wit, which she uses often and sometimes unexpectedly to lighten scenes that might otherwise turn morose. She is adept at capturing the foibles of human nature and can turn a nice phrase. Still, a good editor might have saved the author numerous spelling and punctuation errors and inconsistencies. In addition, some of the stories lack plot; others offer confusing points of view; while in others it is unclear who is narrating. A little more patience in crafting some of these stories and closer editing could have improved Pentacost’s promising but uneven collection.