In his short story collection Dead Dogs and Splintered Hearts, Tom Ward delivers a riveting composite of moments. He explores the consequences of seemingly trivial interactions and compels the reader to do the same. While reading this book, I was often aware of how these questions crawled off the page and penetrated my own happenings. Through the normalization of oddities, Ward forces the reader to confront disturbing experiences as well as challenge them to see past the bizarre and search for something familiar.
The narrative voice reads like a running train of thought that consists of clipped sentences and intricate observation. As a reader, this allowed me to enter the story at close proximity no matter what the narrative point of view is. Although there is minimal variety among the personalities of his characters, I found that this commonality added to the cohesion of the work as a whole. Furthermore, it was a type of character I found quite enjoyable to follow.
The idea of absence is important to this collection. As I am currently studying abroad, many of the stories featuring this theme struck a chord with me. Again, I was made to question. I wondered if my absence from home effected people as it did in his stories. I wondered how the passing of time would change my disposition. While reading this book, I wondered… and wondered… and wondered. I loved just how engaged I was with these characters and how they were presented.
Overall, Dead Dogs and Splintered Hearts was a quick read that challenged convention. It begs the reader to question what is normal and, in turn, normalize the act of questioning. It is not often that readers are given an easily digestible book, that presents and asks so much. If you are looking for daring stories that intrigue and entertain, this collection will do the trick!