Ms. Pretty Rickey The Street Sweeper by Bryneen Gary

Book Summary:

Ms. Pretty Rickey: The Street Sweeper is a Force to Be Reckoned with, Infamous Poetry about Chief Officials, Freedom from War, Dirty Money, Narcotics Anonymous, World Affairs and Domestic Crimes. A Whisper of Sweet nothings, Fresh delights of Lasting Love in the mist of Terror’s Electronic Harassment and constant tracking through Satellite. Sweeping the Streets slowly through this short Poetic Book of Awareness

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Resistance, Revolution and Other Love Stories by K. contains a series of short stories bound together by the theme of love during times of trouble. This anthology of stories is incredibly diverse and unique. K. soars above other authors with their sense of language, almost lyrically describing events in an abstractly beautiful way.

However, the prose is often so incredibly poetic that it was difficult for me to figure out what was actually happening. For instance, I had to read “Radius” multiple times in order to figure out what was going on with Mustapha’s brother, and I’m still not entirely sure I understood. There are so many abstract images painted to describe the story that are simultaneously poignant and senseless. During the portion describing Mustapha’s brother, I found myself squinting as if I were trying to decipher a Jackson Pollock painting. I knew it was beautiful, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was.

Then it’s almost as if a different person picks up the pen to write “Calamity Jane,” wherein a teenage boy is exploring love and sexuality and the seemingly wanton need to tear down all women around him. It wasn’t a story that particularly resonated with me as a reader, mostly due to the amount of denigration focused on teenage girls throughout. The focus is on Jane, in particular, but also on any young girl who happens to wear yoga pants, who is thought of as an object in this young boy’s eyes. He constantly refers to them as “bitches,” and yet, he also constantly notes that they make his genitals “tingle.” If that made you cringe, perhaps skip this particular story. It strikes an ugly chord against the rest of the incredibly beautiful short stories.

In “Dog Whistle,” dogs are cruel in order to appease their masters, but with the touch of a gentle soul, realize the world around them is of their own making. Each story is so different in its own way and love truly ties them all together. I appreciate the different kinds of love woven throughout this story, not just pretty and romantic love. In “The Conversation,” familial love is explored, while in “Head Down,” a cheater falls in love. There were so many different voices within the book that it really felt fleshed out with untold ideas and unique stories. The stories were mostly very short and easy to read.

If you like philosophy, wistfulness, and the notion that love conquers all, this book will be a very enjoyable read for you.

Jenna Swartz, Seattle Book Review

“I think we’re destined to one day despise those quirks we once fell in love with.”

From the opening tale, it is clear that this collection of twelve stories centering around love will be anything but conventional. Survivor’s guilt devours the main character, Mustapha, who survives a bombing in Gaza that claims the lives of his neighbors and own brother, Khalid. In the privacy of his thoughts, he is unable to hide his attraction for Khalid’s widow, Khalila, particularly knowing that the affection is reciprocated. However, outwardly he is resilient, thwarting any advances with the common statement that work needs to be done. The imagery of the fallen families, depicted by the metaphor of fallen branches, their limbs and bodies sprawled together yet mangled in every direction, is haunting. While love is central, the author’s stories transcend beyond simple romance and dive into contextualized and developed worlds that add unique insight into what drives human behavior.

In “Calamity Jane,” the author changes gears, delivering an attention-grabbing opening line: “Jane was a sweet girl once you got past the fact that she was a bitch.” Simply put, the author has a knack for building characters that, while unorthodox, are irresistible and interesting. On the surface, this story could be perceived simply with the purely lust-filled lens of the on-again, off-again relationship of Jane and Jay. However, the perspective of Habib, the main character, provides a spin that is more focused on how much women are taken for granted in relationships. Needless to say, there are underlying themes to every story, albeit subtle, that impel audiences to spend a little more time unraveling the author’s message.

As with Jane and Habib, the sexual tension is prevalent in numerous other stories. For example, in “The Hand,” the main character is mesmerized by one of his supervisors, describing her moist lips and her black suit jacket as being “buttoned to just below her bust line; the silver buttons a fluvial shimmer against her white blouse.” However, the Hand is strongly reminiscent of Orwell’s Big Brother, always watching and controlling what memories are formed and even which memories can be kept (e.g., photographs).

On a similar yet different note, “The Conversation” features a blind character whose sexual tension with the pizza guy is palpable. But digging deeper, the reader can relate with her desire to be free from the shackles and constraints placed by her mother (who encourages Silvia to stay indoors) and the constant juxtaposition of what a parent perceives as protection with what the child feels is suffocation. Perhaps the most intriguing of the stories is “Head Down,” where the instant attraction between Joseph and Shannon, both physically and from a personality standpoint, intersects with Joseph’s tension in an unhappy marriage. A five-day information technology conference in Calgary turns into a whirlwind of passion and romance for the two with lingering effects.

From dystopian stories featuring Game of Thrones-esque great walls, an automaton with a mind of its own, and Greek mythology adaptations to inspired dogs inciting resistance and gardening being a metaphor for life, an element of the unexpected is embedded within each story. Undoubtedly eclectic, each selection takes on a life of its own with electrifying energy and the ability to incorporate themes that will keep ruminating in readers’ minds long after the story is finished.

Mihir Shah, US Review of Books

About the author:

K., an anti-war advocate, studied English, Religion and Philosophy at University of Toronto and has written fiction for years, publishing several stories in literary magazines. Resistance, Revolution and Other Short Stories is K.’s first book. K. lives in Malton, Ontario, Canada, with their spouse, five children, an American Wirehair cat and a Quaker parrot.