Troubles of Our Lives

by Marie-Ghislaine Mera
BookVenture Publishing, LLC

"Bring all your troubles, your sorrows, to the river. Drown them, immerse yourself and you will come out a new being if only you believe."

Mera’s work consists of twelve different short stories. And though each one has its own plot, set of characters, and can represent differing genres (religious fiction, mystery, romance), there are common threads that run through each of the dozen original narratives. Such common elements include, among other things, downtrodden or disadvantaged characters—drug addicts, porn addicts, lost souls, the mentally ill, widows—who are all searching for meaning in the madness of life. And in each case, it is through Jesus that a sort of completeness is finally found, a type of peace for the sets of varied characters in each of the twelve stories.

One story involves a man in jail for the supposed physical abuse of his wife. When he himself was growing up, he was witness to violent domestic abuse inflicted upon his mother by his father, and the authorities now believe he is responsible for his wife’s accident. However, we learn that, in fact, she had fallen down a set of stairs due to her multiple sclerosis—an illness she had kept secret from her husband because she did not want to frighten him. Finally, the truth is out, and our main character is set free. In another, flocks of believers make a pilgrimage to Shiloh, Grande Valley (in the Caribbean), in order to wash away their sins in the river and turn their lives over to Jesus. “There were so many people, it was hard to get through and find a spot to sit in the water,” we read. “Everybody was praying aloud.”

In "The Ghost of Mr. Phipps," a mathematics teacher is often bullied and made fun of by his own students because he is a perfectionist and demands quality work by them. One day an incident gets out of hand, and a group of young men from his class attack and end up killing the teacher. One of the youths records the event on his cell phone. The family of the deceased gentleman decides not to go through with pressing charges against the young murderers and instead move far away. The “ghost” of the slain teacher, in his own ingenious way, gets back at his young assailants from the grave.

Another story involves a mother and daughter who live together and each, in their own eccentric fashion, attempt to set one another up with a suitable husband. The daughter, in particular, has some relatively “radical” beliefs on marriage that fit outside that which is usually held as the norm. The book ends with an unusual and entertaining story of two twin brothers who are involved in selling illegal drugs. The one who is to be married is caught and imprisoned. Unbeknownst to either the bride or the other congregants, the groom's brother shows up in his place, so as not to alarm anyone to the legal situation. As such, the bride ends up marrying not the love of her life but rather his identical twin.

Mera excels at painting portraits in short story form in which fallible human beings, sinful and imperfect, go through a transformation. This often includes a journey that is physical and/or emotional in nature. The author here is a natural storyteller, and her multicultural upbringing and life experiences help her create a rich variety of ethnic and national backgrounds for the characters in the stories she writes. This unique quality is quite refreshing. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the author studied childhood education and taught kindergarten for three years. She came to the US in 1975 and studied to become a nurse. Retiring in 2014 after nineteen years of work with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Mera has written numerous stories over the years and is a mother of two and grandmother of four. Fans of religious and Christian fiction, in particular, will enjoy Mera’s collection of short stories. They can be taken in one at a time, even in random order. Likewise, the book makes for a pleasurable read from start to finish.

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