Ghosts Can Bleed

This is a review of the book “Ghosts Can Bleed” by Tracie McBride. It is a collection of short stories and poetry. I was very pleased to win an ebook copy of this book in Tracie McBride‘s Australia Day Book Giveaway. This book was pleasantly surprising, and as I had never read any of McBride’s work before, I had no preconceptions or expectations. I can gladly say I’d love to read more of her work!

There were many short stories in this collection, and like I have done for other short story collections, I’d like to review them all. There were poems interspersed throughout this book and they covered a number of different themes and subjects. I liked them all, especially “Sleeping with the Fishes”.

Last Chance to See
Sharon has been in a car accident. She died. But she has 24hrs in an avatar as a reincarnate to say her goodbyes.

McBride tells us that this story was inspired by her visit to say her goodbyes to an aunt dying of a terminal illness. She says this story was born from her wondering: what if everyone got to have a pre-funeral? A chance to say goodbye?
This first story resonated with me for a number of reasons. One of the characters was named Tania, which is my mother’s name, so that was cool. It also appealed to me because I’ve lost a few people that were very close to me in these last few years, and I would have given a lot to have been able to say goodbye to them all and tell them how much they meant to me. I did get this experience with my grandmother in a way. She died of cancer, but I got to visit her and say goodbye before the end. The way McBride describes the family and what they’re doing in Sharon’s last hours seems very true to life, it’s a mix of a death bed vigil and a wake. Having waited for death to take someone close to me, I can say, it’s quite a surreal experience. I liked this story, I thought the idea was a good one and I enjoyed McBride’s writing style.

A Good Trade
Malik hears a prophecy from his wife, but misinterprets it badly.

I liked the writing style of this one. It dealt with some strong themes for such a short work. McBride says in her introduction to this piece that despite having fairly good experiences with religion in her lifetime, she always seems to write pieces about religion-gone-bad.

Becoming
Geena is a coddled child. Her father decides it’s time for some tough love to enable her to fly the coop.

No intro/insight from McBride for this one, but I really, really liked it.

The Last Tiger
A strange wild girl rescues a civilised one, who takes her to meet her companions. However, you may be able to take the girl out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the girl.

This piece was born from an experiment in writing in the second person. I really enjoyed this one. It was great. I loved the switches from second person point of view (POV) to third person POV, and I loved the strength of the main character.

Nim of the Kamankay
Nim is looking for a band of warriors to belong to. She thinks she’s found the right one. Now all she has to do is prove herself.

I really like McBride’s writing style, especially when it comes to her fantasy work.

Baptism
A religious brother travels to the island of Koreka to convert the mermaids there. Many have failed in their mission before him. But he believes he can resist the seductive allure of the mermaids.

McBride tells us of the two unrelated ideas that came together to inspire this piece. I liked this one. It was wild and sad. It was probably my favourite.

House Arrest
A humorous little story about losing weight, with help from an unexpected quarter.

I loved it! Very funny and inventive.

Killing a Goddess
Five men have entered the Guard where they are tasked with bedding the Offering (a young woman) as a part of a religious ritual.

McBride tells us that the origins for this story came to her in a dream. This story was a sad one to read, it reminded me a little of “Froi of the Exiles” by Melina Marchetta.

After the Storm
A woman has been forced to survive alone on an alien planet. A catastrophic event has occurred, and for all she knows, she’s the only one left alive.

A sad story that resonates with any country that has been ‘colonised’.

One True Faith
Talia has to bathe in her dead cousin’s ashes as part of a mourning ritual. Afterwards she has horrible dreams. Her parents urge her to seek professional advice.

A strange story. I liked how it was written, but I am not sure I liked the story.

Trading Up
A story about a woman who collects souvenirs and trinkets, some are given, most are stolen. She steals a glass bottle from a store, within it lives an entity. But the glass can be traded up…

McBride tells us that the story had to contain the first sentence: “Mamma has always had a love for other people’s possessions.” The resulting story was rather creepy, and a bit chilling but I really enjoyed it!

Dreamcatcher
Patrick has been having nightmares. His mother Leigh helps him to make a dreamcatcher. It works, but the nightmares caught need to be disposed of, and neither of them know how.

A really interesting story about nightmares and where they originate from, and a cool solution to making them stop.

Lapp Dancing
A comedic story about a woman trying to escape her troubles in a remote location. There she meets a man who seems to be having the worst Christmas ever.

This one stems from the theme “tragedy at the North Pole”. It was funny, light hearted and entertaining.

Fairy Gothic
A woman reminisces about her two daughters while looking at photographs.

A sweet, nostalgic piece.

Theft of a Servant
Serena is overseeing an intake of chubby blonde girls. She spots a dark-haired girl among them and questions her presence, until she sees the girl’s face, she then realises how strongly a bad decision can haunt you.

A bizarre short story, for some reason reminded me of E. Annie Proulx’s short stories. I think it was because the main character wasn’t likeable.

On the Border
The Bearer is the only one allowed to touch the book of maps. The book has already drawn much from him, he shivers and shakes and cannot even recall his own name. Two armies meet and wish to divide land between their people. How will the book and the land react?

Inspired by the thought: what if maps had their own agenda?

Ghosts Can Bleed
Maurice is a ghost. His wife Doreen won’t believe him. It seems the only other person that can see him is Charlie, his bestfriend. Can he move on?

I found this one a little confusing and sad.

Rush Hour
Virgil and his daughter Ginny try to make their way home in rush hour traffic.

Entertaining! Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “the traffic was hell”.

Metal Mouth
Carl is out on his first hunting trip since his last. On that last hunting trip he was savagely beaten by drug dealers and left with a broken jaw. He’s hunting for pigs, but he finds something far more dangerous…

I enjoyed this one. Upon reading the end, the phrase “every dog has his day” popped into my head.

Barking
A pharmaceutical salesman goes through some life changes, and is having trouble adjusting. He sees a psychiatrist to see if that helps.

McBride tells us that during a creative writing course she was tasked with writing a story within a story, this is the resultant story. I really enjoyed it. It reminded me a lot of a Roald Dahl short story. A mix between “Man From the South” (which for some reason I want to call “Man in the Panama Hat”) and “Royal Jelly”.

Flesh Pot
Dan can remember getting drunk at the nearby spaceport bar last night. He remembers winning at pool and chatting with soldiers about alien sex at brothels. But he can’t remember how he got here…

A disturbing but entertaining piece.

Whipping Boy
Candice has just moved back to the small place where she grew up. Everything is as she remembers it, except it is too quiet, too calm. And there is a strange man whom she doesn’t know, but is curious about. Zero is mysterious, quiet and well respected. What is he hiding?

I liked this one, it was very interesting. I couldn’t help but picture Zero from Vampire Knight though. 🙂

A Hit Single
Leo arrives home to find Karla shooting up. But it’s not your everyday drug…

A really cool story. I liked it a lot.

Fridge Wars
Gary has forgotten to pay the power bill and Gillian is pissed off. The food in the fridge has already started to go bad. They arrange to stay elsewhere until the power is back on. Meanwhile the contents of the fridge begin to mutate…

A humorous little tale. I enjoyed the two concurrent tales, and how one was told purely through dialogue. A clever story and entertaining read.

Marked
Hannah and Silver are both scarred. Hannah ignores him at first, believing him to be not right in the head. But when he disappears for a while, she can’t help but be worried. When he reappears, he shows her something, and Hannah realises that she has more in common with him than just scars.

This story actually reminded me very strongly of an extremely vivid dream I once had. Creepy.

The Blue Screen of Death
Sarah keeps dying. But she’s not meant to. Azrael can’t seem to get the system working correctly, so Sarah consults an expert.

An amusing read.

Hell is Other People
A being is going a-hunting.

Cryptic I know, but that’s my little teaser. A cool story.

Dark Wings
The band of mercenaries from the story “Nim of the Kamankay” return in this one. The healer Leta’s services are required by a young man who leads them to his wife who is suffering through childbirth. Nim goes along for Leta’s protection. But there’s something not quite right with this baby…

I loved this one. Another favourite. It reminded me a little of Laurell K. Hamilton’s short stories in the fantasy genre.

Crimes of Faith
Alec and Emily are confused as to why someone has left a rotting turkey on their doorstep.

A witty, macabre piece.

Diagnosis
Dr Goldstein introduces us to the new cutting edge diagnostic tool The WellMate.

An entertaining work.

I really, really enjoyed this book. As I mentioned, having not read any of Tracie McBride’s previous work, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I thoroughly enjoyed this, and especially recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading short stories, or fantasy. Loved it!

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