Author Avi Mukherjee’s wide range of interests is clear in the varied topics he tackles in this story collection.
In these six tales, a Japanese woman seeks to connect with her long-lost birth father; a professional high-stakes poker player, who is also a brilliant academic specializing In AI technology, chooses a life path; a father struggles with his mentally ill son to find clarity, hope and viable healthcare solutions. Other stories include a character musing on the pitfalls and perks of online dating, an imagined worst-case future health scenario in the wake of a global pandemic, and a wide-ranging treatise on religion, spirituality and the meaning of life.
Mukherjee’s stories run the gamut from deep cosmic meditations to light-hearted character studies. In settings that hop across the globe from Japan to California, the author leverages strongly drawn characters and in-depth dialogues to explore a wealth of themes. In each story, Mukherjee seeks to offer takeaways about fundamentally human quandaries.
Considering the broad range of subjects and the relatively small framework (the entire collection totals less than 200 pages), he is largely successful in delivering thoughtful and compelling narratives. Whether it’s the genuinely moving search for roots in the story “Flow with the Tide” or light-hearted reflections on online dating in “Click for Romance,” Mukherjee invests each of his stories with a charming earnestness.
At times, however, that very sincerity takes away from the narrative flow. In “Another World,” for example, the high-stakes poker player Brett Engler offers a detailed view of the world of professional gambling to an imagined journalist. The dialogue between the two characters includes plenty of depth, but it’s far too lengthy and formal to feel realistic. This stiffness affects dialogue across the six stories, but the author largely makes up for it with believably drawn characters and their struggles that hit home more often than not.
Despite the overly detailed and formal dialogue, Mukherjee succeeds in offering six distinctly interesting stories, each one touching on relatable and thought-provoking themes.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.