An intriguing title that matches the short stories that follow, Bryony Rheam’s Whatever Happened To Rick Astley? opens a window to allow readers a glimpse of life, in all its forms, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The collection opens strong with the story of a young man, a modern Sisyphus in some ways, who has the self-appointed task of filling the potholes on a road every day, despite how they return… until a high profile politician is due to move nearby. Then, of course, the road is fixed professionally. Luckily – or probably unluckily – there is always a potholed road in Bulawayo.
The stories that follow take us from the dusty streetside to lush gardens, filled with characters facing different but constant challenges and experiences. Each story forms a piece of a larger, mismatched-but-realistic puzzle of the fluctuations of life in a country that mirrors these ups and downs in different ways.
As a well-rounded and gratifying short story collection should, Whatever Happened To Rick Astley? is both an anthology of tiny worlds, each compact and consumable on their own, but they also form part of a bigger collection of work which, on finishing, feel inseparable from one another.
Whatever Happened To Rick Astley?, Bryony Rheam (Parthian)
Price: £10. Info: here
words MEGAN THOMAS