The Northwoods Chronicles

Elizabeth Engstrom

This collection of twenty short stories centers on a town called White Pine Junction which is in Northwoods. Each is a little off kilter and interesting. It was a hard collection to put down

None of the stories are particularly deep, none plumb the depths of the human condition. Instead they traipse around an idea, an occurrence, a landmark—and deliver a witty tale of surreality. Each seems to hint at some otherness to the area these people live in.

At the beginning of it all, children disappear. One, Micah, disappears right in front of a parent. Boom, gone. I kept waiting for some explanation in one of the other stories and never got it. That was a bummer. But the other bizzaro things that happen seem to make up for that missing piece. Not all the pieces of the puzzle are included in this box. Some are left for the reader to fashion on their own. Though I wish there was more about the kids.

I think my favorite was the one titled 'Skytouch Fever' in which I was led to believe a particular thing was going to happen. Instead, the last few lines deliver a surreal gut punch that no one could see coming.

Elizabeth gives the reader enough to see the larger story. She is great at the short story format of story telling. That she has assembled this many stories of a particular area of weirdness is pretty cool. It is not a novel; though it claims to be a 'novel in stories' on the front cover. Do not be fooled into expecting a novel. Together, these stories chronicle some oddities of the Northwoods.

I'm at a loss as to what genre this book falls into. It's not horror, though there are some horror elements included. It's not Sci-fi, unless you think the kids were abducted by UFOs. It is sort of surrealist story telling, and it is done quite well.

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