Bag O'Goodies by Jolly Walker Bittick

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Bag O'Goodies by Jolly Walker Bittick

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Category: Anthologies
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: You really only need the title to know what this book's about: it's a delightful collection of verse and short stories, particularly suited to young men.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 210 Date: April 2022
Publisher: Jolly Walker Bittick
ISBN: 978-1737030942

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Sometimes, you deserve a treat and mine was Jolly Walker Bittick's Bag O'Goodies. I first encountered his writing about a year ago, when I read his Cape Henry House, a rollicking tale of what happens when five young men find a base for their partying. Right now, I didn't want a full-length novel, so I turned to this anthology of verse and short stories. Bittick's writing has matured - and so have his characters. Well... most of them!

We start with some delightful, smile-inducing verse: Cherry Popped Book gives you an idea of precisely what you're going to get. The mood changes more than a little with Calvert Country Detention, where a trip out after a gruelling, hot day makes drinking more than a few boilermakers seem inevitable. The fun starts when the older folks are still in the bar and ends exactly where the title suggests. Jail time, it seems, is unavoidable too - and not unexpected. Old Man Digby shows that some neighbours don't just have a scary reputation: the reality can be even worse.

And then I cried when I read A Child's Joy:

Worse than the extremity of Mother Nature's changing seasons
Are adults shoving objects in a child's face
Adults crying about outside issues
Adults manipulating children.

I have seen it happen and know the damage it can do.

Then I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend. Bosner was the star, the narrator of Cape Henry House. He's at that stage of early adulthood when maturity is taking root. He can be thoughtless in what he says but there's no malice behind it and there's a willingness to go out of his way, take risks, and put matters right. I developed a real affection for him in Cape Henry House and At the Gate made me hope to hear more of him. It's an insightful story which shows how a casual remark can turn everything on its head.

There's some poignant, surprising writing - including 'A Short Poem', which must be the shortest poem I've ever read and made me laugh out loud.

For me, the backbone of the book is the three-part story Blue Ridge Riders about motorcycle chapters and the intertangled social fabric of those we meet. It isn't a subject which I would have thought to find interesting but I was glued to the pages. Doozy's the newcomer, meeting the characters for the first time. Indie's the glue that holds the people together in surprising ways. I was even interested in the guns and found myself reading up about tannerite!

My favourite story is On Sequim Bay as a man takes a walk along a trail which he's known for a long time and which evokes memories from his childhood - digging for clams with his father - of a romantic interlude with his wife - of a punishment he earned. Most poignant is the point at which he so nearly committed suicide, only to find that love matters most. There's the salient advice on a deer-hunting trip with his father which applies to many areas of life: Never shoot at what you can't see. Never. But the boy sums up his - and everybody's lives - when he asks his Grandpa why is there a high and a low tide?.

Bag O'Goodies was a relatively quick read but it was thought-provoking and insightful. A good way to spend an afternoon. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

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Buy Bag O'Goodies by Jolly Walker Bittick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bag O'Goodies by Jolly Walker Bittick at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.

Buy Bag O'Goodies by Jolly Walker Bittick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bag O'Goodies by Jolly Walker Bittick at Amazon.com.

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