Book Review: When I Was Alive
By: Habiba El-Sadany
When I Was Alive is a collection of four novellas: Rivers, When I Was Alive, Piece of Me, and Don’t Go Into the Woods. Each story centers around characters suffering tragic losses and the impact of them.
Rivers centers around a family losing their teenage son in an auto accident, that right from the start does not appear to have been an accident. But rather a possible suicide. The story’s main focus is the young man’s mother and her struggle to make sense of her loss.
When I Was Alive is the story of a couple who have made a pact after receiving an ominous prediction by a fortuneteller. Breaking their agreement has the potential to have dire consequences, if the fortuneteller’s predictions are to be believed.
Piece of Me is the story of a woman who wakes up, believing she has recently given birth. Except, according to her husband, she was never pregnant. She’s then force to deal with the loss of a child that never really existed.
Don’t Go Into the Woods is the story of a woman whose son was brutally murdered. She finds herself haunted by her son, in her dreams. She struggles with the decision to uncover who is responsible for her son’s death.
The common thread of loss and grief tie brings them together in a nicely cohesive collection. While they share a theme, each is sufficiently unique so as to sand alone. One doesn’t feel that they’re reading a retelling of the previous story. While the subject matter of each story centers around grief, loss, and tragedy, I found, at times, the characters’ reactions lacked the emotional depth one would expect from someone who is suffering. If you’re looking for a collection of dark tales, this collection is for you.
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