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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: In the Land of Armadillos

In the Land of Armadillos: Stories - Helen Maryles Shankman

This collection of interconnected short stories holds considerable promise: magic realism meets WWII-era occupied Poland. I loved the architecture, how the stories looped around unexpectedly and became one tangled mess. The best stories were superb, layered tales of beauty and astonishment. These are stories where brutal reality and heartfelt magic collide against a backdrop of vivid color.


As a whole though, In the Land of Armadillos left an acidic taste in my mouth that gives me pause to honor this book with the highest praise. How can I best describe it? At their best, the stories in this collection are heartbreaking and relevant, but the stories can grow a bit maudlin, a tad overcloying in their sentimentality. If Hallmark commissioned Salman Rushdie to produce a WWII miniseries for their network, I think it would look a little like this. It wouldn't necessarily be a bad production, but it would feel off, you know what I'm saying?