Alternative Medicine by Laura Solomon

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Alternative Medicine by Laura Solomon

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The publisher describes these stories as black comedy with a twist of surrealism, but this shouldn't put you off if you're not nromally a fan of these genre. They wouldn't normally be my choice, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 236 Date: November 2017
Publisher: Woven Words

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Laura Solomon's publisher describes the short stories in Alternative Medicine as black comedy with a twist of surrealism. I'm rather glad that I didn't see this until after I'd finished reading as I'm not normally a fan of either, but I've come to two conclusions about the book: what the publisher says is correct - and I really enjoyed it. The comedy is not too black and the surrealism is gentle and perhaps best described as a twist or flick of reality when you were least expecting it. Your comfort zones are going to be invaded in the nicest possible way.

In the titular story a medical student takes on some part-time work as a dancing bear. He told his family over one of his mother's vegan roast dinners and his mother nearly choked on her wholemeal bread. Knowing her preferences in food you can understand why the discovery of the human heart in the freezer upset her so much, particularly after she'd defrosted it in the microwave thinking that it was a piece of long-forgotten meat. Three weeks later she discovered the brain under the bed. I read it feeling that I shouldn't laugh, but the mother is so earnest and the father so laid back that it's difficult not to. I even managed to gloss over some casual animal cruelty, which would normally upset me. It's a story which will leave you musing on what's happened long after you've finished reading.

The Man Who Wanted a Baby is one of Laura Solomon's best stories, pivoting as it does on the difference between the human and the inhuman. I'm not going to tell you more about the plot: it's one which you really should read for yourself as the final sentence leaves you stunned. It's a superb piece of writing.

I loved Sprout, the story of a woman who buys a demonic duvet and in consequence begins to sprout feathers. Solomon turned this story into a play which was part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2004. I suspect that it would do well as a play: the words on the page create strong visual images: it would be a real pleasure to see it performed on stage. I liked the idea that the man who received a heart transplant in The New Heart could experience the memories of the donor. We might know that the heart is simply a machine for pumping blood, but it's easy to believe Solomon's suggestion that it is something more.

There are eighteen stories in the book and I've touched on just four: it would be all too easy to go on to tell you about the others: all are good and none struck me as being at all weak. Charcterisation is superb and particularly so considering the constraints of a short story and the sense of humour is wicked. The writing is nimble and elegant: a thoroughly enjoyable collection.

We've reviewed quite a few of Solomon's books: you might find something to your taste here.

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Buy Alternative Medicine by Laura Solomon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Alternative Medicine by Laura Solomon at


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