Thursday, August 16, 2007

How Best to Avoid Dying by Owen Egerton

ISBN: 9780974070377 - Dalton Publishing (2007)
Reviewed by Cherie Fisher for Reader Views (7/07)

Owen Egerton has compiled a book of small stories in "How Best to Avoid Dying."  I have to say that I had mixed feelings as I read through some of the stories.  It is very difficult to describe my feelings about them as they had the strangest affect on me.  I was very disturbed by many of them, but something about them compelled me to read on.  I don't think a book has ever had quite that affect on me before.  The author is an excellent writer and definitely knows how to draw a reader in. 
I often wondered as I was reading "How Best to Avoid Dying" what motivates an author to come up with this brand of writing.  Egerton often employed dark humor to get his point across in the stories.  He seemed to be poking fun at mankind in an insightful way by writing about human eccentricities.  What compels a person to write a book like this?  I guess the even bigger question is, what compelled me to not to put it down until I was done?  

"How Best to Avoid Dying" primarily explores the painful side of life, and facing up to the realization that we all will die.  The book starts with a seemingly innocent spelling bee where the children are eliminated for spelling errors by being dropped through a trap door to meet an awful fate.  The strange stories include the author's biblical interpretation of the story of Lazarus to the bizarre summer camp counselor story of the Martyrs of Mountain Peak.  Then there was "The Fecalist" -- I will leave the description of this story to your imagination. 
Overall, "How Best to Avoid Dying" was very well written and I would recommend it to people who enjoy bizarre stories like the Stephen King and Dean Koontz crowd.  I think you will feel like I did at the end of the book – I am still trying to figure out what makes this author tick and think it would be great fun to sit and have an in-depth conversation with him on the meaning of life. 

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