from Red Bird Chapbooks
A beautiful body, found decomposing in the woods; a high school honor’s symposium shocked by a suicide; a nest of frozen pigeon eggs, “little orbs the color of bone gone pink”: the stories in Sam Snoek-Brown’s Where There is Ruin explore these sites of tragedy and others. Rumi wrote, “Where there is ruin, there is hope of treasure”; with unflinching prose and astute characterization, Snoek-Brown explores the ruined lives of these stories to find beauty and meaning on every page.
In this collection, deliciously eerie tales of bodies and all they leave behind are the tools that Snoek-Brown employs to hold up a mirror to the spate of reactions that sudden, mysterious, and unjustified sorrow and brokenness inspires in us all. [. . .] There is an uncanny theme of disconnection in these pieces that very successfully speaks to our sense of alienation in a world without order, to our inexplicable bonds that defy rote categorization. [. . .] We use the detritus of others’ lives to build our own nests, to tell ourselves the stories we need to in order to survive.
So often is great writing praised for its gallows humor, its ability to parse the comical from pathos. [. . .] It is the means of coping we are perhaps most accustomed to — or at least seem to revere the most — the sort that touches upon the ridiculousness hidden in devastation. While it is more often than not an indicator of intelligence or wit, it is (at least in this writer’s case) also an effective way of avoiding dipping into being overly sentimental or melodramatic.
Where There Is Ruin employs a strategy that seems more like a kind of gallows optimism. The collection — which draws its title from the quote by Rumi, “where there is ruin, there is hope of treasure” — manages to mostly evade the saccharine to relish in these odd pockets of relief amidst its bleakness. This is not to say that these stories sugarcoat; Snoek-Brown spares no detail, for example, of a decaying body found in the woods in “Please Know Our Loving Thoughts Embrace You.” There is, after all, no gallows optimism without the gallows themselves.
Samuel Snoek-Brown’s little chapbook, Where There Is Ruin, is as perfect as it gets when it comes to prose. In my estimation, this tiny, potent book is the hymnal of excellent prose and Sam Snoek-Brown is the choirmaster.
— Corie Skolnick, author of Orfan & America’s Most Eligible
[Samuel Snoek-Brown] writes fiction that holds the attention the way a poem would. I am haunted by that story of the decomposing body (“Please Know Our Loving Thoughts Embrace You”) — one of the most imaginative pieces of short fiction I have read in a long time.”
— Marie Marshall, author of I am not a fish & Lupa
For information on the Here Is My Ruin / Here Is My Treasure movement on social media, see my blog post introducing the idea, and in your social media networks, search for #HereIsMyRuin and/or #HereIsMyTreasure.
Also by Samuel Snoek-Brown
There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, a story collection
Hagridden, a novel
Box Cutters, a flash fiction chapbook