Gifts of the Heart

I picked up this book only because someone had stashed it among the Large Print books at the Ang Mo Kio Library. Since it is a thin book, and the sub-title says it consists of stories to lift the spirits, I thought it would be an easy read. I also wanted to find out the quality of the writing, especially with regards to themes, plots, their development and characterisation.

This book has 18 stories in two parts : A Twist of Fate and Women’s Lives.

Part 1 has stories with titles like The Monkey God (about a kidnapping attempt), A Baby’s Dream (about Feng Shui and Chinese medicines), Deadly Female (about a 25-year-old woman and her 75-year-old lover) and Help Me Bomoh (about magic and spirits);

Part 2 has stories like The Shining Cage (about confidence & cowardice, Confucian ideas & values, individuality & liberty, identity & selfhood, resilience, patience, parenthood & motherhood) and The Phoenix (about how gullible human beings can be and the challenges of a marriage especially filled with ambivalence and misery).

I was a tad surprised to discover that The Shining Cage was published in an University of Malaysia journal (Vol 3 No 2, Dec 2009) because I wasn’t that impressed by the writing though I must say it is no mean feat to combine so many subjects in a short story.

The only thing I liked about the book was the use of quotes from literary giants like Rudyard Kipling, Robert Frost, Wilfred Owen and William Shakespeare in two of the stories (Kipling in Deadly Female; Frost, Owen and Shakespeare in The Phoenix).

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