I would say that this is one book you can judge by its cover. It is beautiful inside and out. The smaller pictures making up the heart on the front cover correspond to images in the stories. I’ve mentioned Jen Campbell here before. She has a YouTube channel where she talks about books, writing, and diversity. She has a few books out already: a children’s book, some poetry, and now a short story collection with a very long name.
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of stories that are influenced heavily by fairy tales. Of course, that got my attention as a fellow lover of fairy tales. There are twelve stories in the collection, and they deal with a variety of topics and wild characters. There’s a man who buys his lover a new heart online, there are literal flower children at summer camp, there’s a coffin hotel, and much, much more. When reviewing short story collections, one of my criteria for judging how good the collection is as a whole is to reflect on how well I can remember individual stories. Sometimes a collection blurs together because the stories are too similar or dull. There is a lot of uniqueness here. The collection feels fresh and surprisingly informative about fairy tales themselves.
If you go into the collection with no knowledge of fairy tales beyond the Disney versions, fear not. Interspersed throughout the stories are facts about fairy tale history and myth. This is, like I said, informative and very interesting, but sometimes the facts interrupted the flow of the stories. My only other complaint is that I wanted more. A few of the stories really felt like they could be a novel with a little more work. There are some great plots, themes, and characters that feel bigger than the short story they appear in. This collection is only around 200 pages, and I felt like many of the characters deserves a little more time on the page. Since I rated this collection 4/5 stars, I really enjoyed the majority of the stories. There were a couple that were not my cup of tea, but there is definitely more good than bad in here. (As always, your mileage may vary though.) Happy reading!