BOOK REVIEW: Let’s Play White, by Chesya Burke

Let’s Play White by Chesya Burke is a collection of shadowy tales in a wide range of contexts. In these pages you’ll find a zombie apocalypse, horrors on a city train, the Harlem underworld of gang warfare, and the life and losses of a hoodoo woman in a distant town in Kentucky.

In essence: Let’s Play White by Chesya Burke

Let’s Play White hosts eleven skilful stories, and a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar (whose work is well worth a look up and can be found here). The tales use a wide range of context and styles, so you carry on easily from one story to the next, intrigued to see what the next setting will be. There’s a vignette about a woman who carries a terrible secret in her handbag; a novella about the life and times of a hoodoo woman; and a three-legged king rat who knows how to win, and all of these tales have more than one layer of messages. They’re creepy and dramatic, and the characters are strong, believable, likeable – and not all are tragic.

How scary is the horror?

There’s much you are not shown in this dark collection. Who knows what happened to the child in the shack in the woods? Only his shoes were found, because no-one who knew dared investigate. What did Jeli whisper to the priest as she channels the spirit of her ancestors? What really happened to Manyara’s baby? As usual, what you aren’t told, your imagination can fill in for you, a hugely effective device, delicately played here.

Gore is kept to a minimum, used when necessary and well-described, but not overdone. The creep, however, is terrifying, based in the horrors that human beings do to each other, the terror of not remembering who you are, the pieces of us we leave behind when we die … but that isn’t all. The subtext of tyranny and oppression is an extra layer of horror, a gut wrench as characters you care about are thrust by powerful forces into often grim choices that change their lives forever. Not everyone loses, however. Winners and losers leap from these pages, and sometimes justice is dealt.

Will you like it?

Chesya Burke’s writing drags you resolutely into the individual worlds of her characters. The immersion in their lives and dilemmas gives you a 360 degree view through their eyes. Her light touch ensures strong messages about loss, growth, and fitting in are overlaid with skilful drama, humour, and understatement. You become the characters trapped by circumstance, surrounded by bigoted, helpful, destructive, kind, or self-interested others. You are part of every interaction; every choice they make, just for the time you get to read the story.

Chesya Burke’s writing is thoughtful and unhurried, giving you time to savour every drop of human experience she provides. It draws you down the page easily and each tale creates its own time warp in which to lose yourself. If you want to experience that, this is your book.

Let’s Play White is currently still available from its own publishing house for $0.99. Offer still available as per 5 March 2017. Click on the link and select ‘ebook’ in the drop-down box.

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