Book Review: Filling The Void

ImageTitle: Filling The Void

Author: Harmony Bryce

Genre: Romance, Short-Story, Contemporary

Rating: 2 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Adopted at an early age, Jin Anthony seems to have everything. His job in the medical profession affords him a lifestyle of luxury, he’s well liked by everyone, and he always seems to be in control. To those on the outside, it looks as though Jin’s living the American dream.

Hailing from a more humble background, Mei-Ling is a beautiful holistic healer who can’t speak a word of English.

Jin and Mei-Ling’s worlds, and cultures, collide when their paths cross at a medical convention. And while this chance encounter seems insignificant at first, it quickly blossoms into a once in a lifetime love.

WARNING – SPOILERS WILL ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First of all, let me say that I got this book directly from the author, Harmony Bryce, who is quite a lovely lady, and offered to send me a free digital copy in exchange for a review. She was nothing but pleasant, and I get the impression that she’s a very kind woman. I can appreciate good people when I see them.

That being said, I am not a great lover of novellas and short stories. I’m willing to give them a read when I get them, but in general, I tend to find them too rushed and unbelievable. I don’t know if it’s the format that makes them this way, or if I simply haven’t read any good ones.

Right off the bat, I had a lot of trouble getting into this story. I wasn’t aware at first (until I looked it up on google) that the story was a short one, so my overall feeling the first page in was “wow… this is moving kind of fast.” There wasn’t a lot of description of the people or the places they were in. One minute we were in a living room, the next, we on a plane to China. Now, I realize that there’s only so much you can do about this sort of location hopping when it comes to a short story, but I did find it jolting. When I read a story, I want to feel immersed in the world and the lives of the people in it. With this, as with so many other short stories I’ve read, I felt like I was flipping through a picture book instead. The images were there, but there wasn’t a lot of supportive writing to add that depth that I so desperately needed.

My second issue with this story was the tense in which it was written. At certain points for no apparent reason, the writing switched from past tense, to present tense. It was extremely jarring, and unfortunately, I don’t think anyone else seems to have noticed this  – as ever other review I’ve read on the book gave it 5 stars. Combined with the dialogue which was stiff, and awkward, it was clear to me right away that the author was new to writing – and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but the mistakes I spotted in the writing from a technical standpoint, were mistakes that should have been caught in the first draft.

I felt absolutely no connection with any of the characters, and they all very much displayed the same “voice”. If not for the constant name-tags within the dialogue and narrative, I wouldn’t have been able to tell who was speaking.

All that being said, the story itself was a sweet one. Jin, the main character (which wasn’t entirely evident until the third chapter or so) grew up in a mixed-race adoptive family. His adopted mother, Mavis, loved all her sons, which is clearly evident, and raised them to be strong, independent, and well-adjusted men. At some point, (though for whatever reason, this is done off-stage) Jin meets the girl of his dreams and proposes. This causes a bit of an issue as he is introduced to her very strict family and all sorts of hijinks ensue while Jin tries to figure out his past, adjust to his birth-culture, and win over the hearts of his fiance’s family. It’s a good story. It’s endearing, and interesting, and full of conflict. Unfortunately, a good portion of that was lost in the way it was written.

I think the biggest punch to the face I got reading this story however, was in Jin’s own description of his fiance. Despite the fact he was raised in a multi-racial, multi-cultural family, he proceeds at one point to describe his fiance as having “chinky” eyes. I did a double take. For those of you who aren’t aware, “chinky” is a derogatory slang word stemming from the racist “chink” descriptor of people of Chinese descent. It’s akin to calling a black person “nigger” (please excuse me for printing both these words in my article). I could not believe that this word made it past the first-draft and into this story. It essentially threw out everything I knew of Jin’s upbringing and rendered it false. Please read the second amendment statement at the bottom of this review relating to this paragraph and all gray-text in this review.

In the end I can’t in all honesty recommend this book to anyone. I refuse to promote racism, and honestly, it just wasn’t that well written. My props go to the author for trying to write an endearing story of acceptance and life-long-love, but I would suggest running any future stories through a more comprehensive editing phase before publishing. I think, given another run through a proof-reader, this could have been a really great, heart-warming short-story. Unfortunately, it just didn’t make it there.

Without the racist bit, I probably would have given this 3 stars.

AMENDMENT:

Amazon.com wouldn’t let me post this review. Why? Because it contained racist words. Apparently they don’t approve either.

As a second amendment, the lovely Harmony Bryce e-mailed me again this morning to assure me that she wasn’t aware of the word’s negative association, and has assured me that the word has now been edited out of the book. The removal of this word has bumped my opinion of this book up to a 3 star rather than a 2.

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