~by Georgia Z. Post
When I saw copies of Arsenic Soup for Lovers: When Chicken Soup Doesn't Work being offered for review, I managed to snag one. I had never heard of the book or the author before, but had a hard time passing up on a title like that. The book is a very slim volume. The twenty-five stories are also very slim, amounting to only a few pages each. (The sub-subtitle, Very Very Short Stories for Very Very Busy People, isn't kidding.) Because of this, the book felt more like a collection of jokes rather than short stories.
This collection is definitely suited to those who only have a few minutes to catch here and there. The stories are indeed very, very short and are easily and quickly consumed. The book certainly doesn't require much in the way of a time investment. In some fashion or another, each story deals with love, lust, and/or romance, usually not in the most positive of lights. Actually, they're often rather twisted.
I found most of the stories to be vaguely amusing, although there were a good handful that I just didn't' "get." Part of the problem is probably related to the length of the stories. I have no issue with the fact that these were super-short (which is a selling-point, really, and kinda fun), but sometimes I think important details may have been left out while other, less critical details were left in. One other, really very small complaint is that some names were recycled. (For example, I'm pretty sure that that one Frank wasn't the same person as that one other Frank, but I could be wrong.) This was distracting for a set of stories that I assume are not supposed to be related to each other except for the general theme of romance gone awry.
Even though each was an individual story, they all began to seem very familiar very quickly, mostly due to similar initial circumstances and because the stories aren't long enough to really distinguish themselves from each other. However, there still is a pleasant variety of stories--some are really quite sweet while others are definitely quite the opposite. Arsenic Soup for Lovers requires a specific sense of humor to really appreciate the book to its fullest. Many of the stories are appalling when one stops to really think about what's going on--people playing nasty tricks on one another, murderous intentions, the list goes on. If you don't find malice funny at times, you probably won't like this collection.
Stories included: "Midlife Crisis," "The Perfect Couple," "Valentine's Day Update," "The Marriage Test," "Ask Me," "The Morgue Called," "Assisted Living," "Knees," "Marriage and Role Reversal," "The Widow and the Leaking Toilet," "The Widow's Deception," "Breaking Up," "Christmas Wish List," "E-Mail," "New Year's Resolution," "Birds and Bees 102," "Running Out of Time," "Sex and the Widow," "The Widow and the Other Woman," "The Devil's Hangout," "Valentines," "The Widow and the Will," "Christmas Wish," "A Better Spouse Trap," "Widow for Rent"