Souls in Exile is, as the title suggests, a collection of seven short stories, one novelette and one novella. They blend intrigue, suspense and the occasional touch of the supernatural.
Although the narratives in Souls in Exile differ greatly, they are all linked by the displacement of the main protagonist/s, be that mental, physical or both. In the stories, characters are at odds with the world around them, or with themselves. It is subtle yet skilfully done. Further, in the majority of the tales, Mr Padron draws gently on his Cuban heritage and it filters through the prose to both colour and enhance the feelings of alienation that pervade the book. Souls in Exile has been thoughtfully structured with just the right of level of subjectivity; it feels personal but inclusive.
Out of the shorter narratives, I thought Dreaming in America was the strongest, quietly powerful and poignant. I also liked the fact that Mrs Blanco, in common with the female characters in Sylvia’s Island (novelette, very sinister and creepy) and The White Wingless Angel of Dove Key, was in her forties, not only did it work with the story, it’s nicely refreshing to read a selection of tales with women of this age at the forefront.
Up On The Roof, simmers with unspoken emotion. The dialogue between Birdman and Jackie was well-realised; natural and authentic. In this story as in others, Mr Padron is careful to describe place; lots of detail and landmarks so that if you are not familiar with the locations in which the tales are set, you are given a sense of recognition. Personally, Gloria, was the weakest and the endings of some of the tales fall away a little. However, The Old Farts Tour was thought-provoking, I liked the way little breadcrumbs of hints were laid before the crushing twist was revealed.
Then we have the novella, The White Wingless Angel of Dove Key. I found this compelling and strangely haunting. It is as much Nurse Parker’s story as it is David Fine’s. Their stories are captivating, highly charged and echoing with melancholy. I really hope Mr Padron adds to this as I wanted to read on!
Souls in Exile is a really interesting collection written in beautifully delicate yet observant prose. Highly recommended.