I’ve always been fascinated with verse books; the idea that an author can create a story in short phrases and sentences seemed far too difficult. I’m not saying writing a full novel is a cake walk either. But trying to convey what the story is about in so little words can be challenging. Andrew Friedman’s Say Not What If is even more difficult – it’s a story told in one long, rhyming poem. Clocking at 52 pages, you’d think that I’d been able to finish this in one sitting. I tried, but the subject matters were the kind that required a handful of intermittent pauses – a child’s murder, several prison raping and beating, death penalty – all difficult subjects that I normally make a conscious effort of avoiding.
The story begins when we meet a married man whose dedication lay more to his job than fixing his already fragile marriage. It wasn’t long until his wife realized that she’d had to make some changes instead of waiting on her more or less absentee husband. His life spirals into an abyss, as he loses his wife and his job at the same time. He then finds out that he was terminally ill. The story unfolds with the character’s stint in death row and all the abuse he’d had to endure in the hands of the other inmates. A child killer is the most hated criminal in prison, so just imagine his harrowing punishment. The story wasn’t graphic by any means; the style of writing certainly helped to keep the character’s garrish reality a bit more palatable. But it’s all there – more than implied. The ugly truth, the hopelessness, the big regrets.
Say Not What If is a beautifully written piece of literature with a dark heart at its core. The stark contrast between the lovely poetry and all the things that made this ugly was severe but it was also what made the story…beautiful in an uncanny way. The simple poetry was decipherable that I did not have a hard time following the story. This tiny book will make you think about the righteousness and moral grounds of enforcing death penalty. Does taking a life for another make it right? Will a criminal’s good deeds and remorse balance out the life that was wasted to begin with? It also shows how human beings are naturally selfish and cowardice. We’d make a bargain with the devil himself just to avoid paying for the consequences of our actions. It’s a story about wrong choices, lives wasted, and lost opportunities. And at the end of it all, everyone gets what they deserve.
I’ve always been afraid to stretch my reading wings but I’m awfully glad that the author contacted me to review his work.
**This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.**