These You Know

William P. Pope

Publisher: BookBaby Pages: 282 Price: (paperback) $19.95 ISBN: 9781098361242 Reviewed: April, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

William P. Pope’s short story collection features O. Henry-like plot twists and vivid characters that readers familiar with the South will recognize.

The collection begins with “Family,” about a wealthy widower whose life revolves around his daughter “Sissy.” It seems everything about the child delights him, but his good intentions on leaving Sissy his wealth ultimately lead to tragic consequences.

In “Crazy Cary Coogan,” eccentric protagonist Cary lives in a shed, buries her savings in “number ten steel cans” and on cold nights stays at a Catholic church shelter where Mother Mary Rose makes her feel secure and warm. Cary reveals that she accumulated her secret savings to leave to her daughter Flo. But Flo never visits, and Cary sometimes wonders if she’s real or pretend. Eventually, she discovers the startling truth.

In “The Youth Thief,” Macie Ann Alexander reflects on life with her husband Rock, who she married at age 14, as she sits with him in his final moments.

Pope’s writing is detailed and clear with a strong point of view. His stories generally share themes of wrongdoing and inequality, featuring characters who live in a world where secrets abound and status and “class” matter. “It had been evident without even looking at her resume that Melissa Ashworth was from a ‘good family,’” he writes in “Who’s Your Daddy?” “Her manners were those of the refined class of people…people who had taken their family to museums, and concerts, and marvelous restaurants.” Pope’s knowledge of traditional Southern values provides a solid foundation for the tales.

Unfortunately, the plots are weak, often relying on irony or unexpected twists that feel contrived. Additionally, there’s too much “telling,” rather than “showing,” which slows momentum, and the dialogue can sometimes be hard to follow for lack of attribution. Finally, copyediting errors are distracting.

Revision with an eye to these concerns could improve these tales. Still, those with an interest in the South might find these characters worth meeting.

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