Flowers In A Dumpster by Mark Allan Gunnells
Crystal Lake Publishing, 2015
Available: print, Kindle ebook
Flowers in a Dumpster contains seventeen short stories, each presenting a provocative investigation of human nature, specifically regarding what happens when hope is gone. Several stories stand out to me.
In “Past Lives,” the world is a very different place after a supervirus ravaged the United States, wiping out a large percentage of the population. A struggling family reluctantly takes in a wayward stranger, one who proves to be all too familiar and a reminder of the lies told by the leader of the free world. This was a very striking story.
“Welcome” and “Welcome Back” both focus on Steve and Al, a couple that gets stranded and end up trapped in a strange house. In the first story, the couple head to the first house they see to call for help. They are greeted by a frantic woman, practically dragged inside, and told a fantastic story about her family being trapped in the house for two years. Now that Steve and Al have arrived, the small family can finally escape. But what of Steve and Al? “Welcome Back” is a continuation that takes place five years after the couple became trapped in the mysterious house. I think the most interesting aspect of the stories is watching how each of the men deal with the stress of their situation. It’s truly heartbreaking.
The shortest story of the collection, “The Support Group,” is probably my favorite in this book, and is one of the most powerful. “The Support Group” personifies various cities around the world that are festooned with parasites. They are desperate to rid themselves of their problem, but no one is willing or able to go as far as one did, one who succeeded.
Two other stories that I found to be gripping are “Similar Interests” and Land of Plenty.” The former is a unique take on the serial killer story. It is told through the perspectives of two serial killers. The latter tells of a small but prosperous community that keeps its population in check using an unorthodox method of control.
A few of the stories, while intriguing, didn’t quite deliver. One such story, “The Locked Tower,” dealt with a man obsessed with gaining access to a forbidden tower in a building at his old college. He’s thwarted at every turn by university administration and security, among others. What he discovers falls flat to me, but others may find it to intriguing.
These are just a handful of flowers you can find in this collection. If you want a stories of a visceral nature, pick up this collection. You won’t be disappointed. Recommended.
Contains: body horror, gore, sex, abuse
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker