Tales of Little Egypt by James Gilbert paperback review
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Book Review: Tales of Little Egypt

TALES OF LITTLE EGYPT by James Gilbert is a rich collection of short stories offering insight into the American past and present. Check out what Steph Huddleston of IBR has to say about this Atmosphere Press book.

“Book Review: Tales of Little Egypt”

Reviewed by Steph Huddleston

Featured photo for Tales of Little Egypt by James Gilbert, as reviewed by Steph Huddleston at Independent Book Review

A rich collection of short stories offering insight into the collective American past and present

From the very beginning, Tales of Little Egypt prepares us for an emotional journey. From a battle-side death bed to the truths of small-town America, this collection of historical short fiction weaves between tales that are at times endearing, at times tragic, but always insightful.

Gilbert uses a host of characters to explore the turbulent historical period of America between the Civil War and the Influenza Plague of 1918. Carefully constructed vignettes give us glimpses into the lives of unique characters in small towns like this, allowing us to witness a wide range of recognizable issues from the time period. In addition to covering innately human stories, we also come to the page with compassion as we recognize what they were up against, like the limitations and challenges facing the medical professionals of the era.

But Tales of Little Egypt doesn’t engage only with issues of medicine and small-town drama. It also rises to the occasion to tell important stories that demonstrate the way some cultures, ideas, and beliefs interact with one another following the Civil War. As we follow the Jewish jeweler, for example, we get insight into very real anti-Semitic behaviors of the time. Tragedy strikes even in the midst of celebration as the town seeks to reform an individual and community identity. 

Gilbert has done an excellent job exploring the historical era and presenting these stories in an engaging manner. Though characters function as a platform to explore the historical setting and issues, this in no way diminishes their vibrancy. From young, German-born Ralph, to Doctor Watson, to Tommy Patterson, each character sparkles with their own form of charm. The interactions between each short story as the characters come into contact with one another is interesting and captures the reader’s imagination of life in this small town well. 

The title for the book Tales of Little Egypt stems from a real geographical location in America. Helpfully, the author has included a map of this area in the book. The town itself takes on an identity and life of its own through the reflection of the townspeople, similar to that of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio.

“No one in Marion would ever buy such a fashionable item, she thought, but she understood that Mr. Irving tried to keep up with trends, if only to prevent the few well-off families from travelling to St Louis for their purchases.”

Tales of Little Egypt is well worth reading for fans of historical fiction who want to dive into a few short stories at a time. With each new tale, you’ll be witnessing a brief, well-constructed story about life earlier on in American history, and I’m confident you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

Category: Short Story Collection > Historical Fiction

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Paperback: 314 pages

ISBN: 978-1648261985

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