Hairway to Heaven Stories

Patty Somlo
Cherry Castle Publishing (2018)
ISBN 9780692964385
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (1/19)

“Hairway to Heaven Stories” by Patty Somlo is a fascinating collection of fifteen short stories that delve into the lives of people living in or around the neighborhood of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Portland, Oregon.  Somlo writes with flair, her words spinning ordinary experiences into unique and bizarre tales that captivate readers from the very beginning.

The characters and their travails drive Somlo’s stories and the book is an intriguing multi-cultural experience.  Some heart-wrenching, some encouraging, some inspirational, these stories are relatable, emotional and genuine. Some of the quirky characters found in Somlo’s MLK neighborhood, to name just a few, include:  a recovering alcoholic turned beauty shop preacher, a street musician, a man learning to be comfortable in his sexual orientation, a woman who becomes pregnant just for the experience, and a professional baseball player who returns to his old neighborhood after his career ends.  These and so many others kept me turning the pages late into the evening as my desire to learn all about them grew with each sentence. And know them you will - larger than life, each character and event will find a place in your psyche and stay with you for days.

I love how the stories connect in a subtle manner. It’s not only by the MLK Boulevard association, but by the characters themselves and the points of interest in the narrative. It isn’t a soap opera type of neighborhood where everyone is involved in everyone else’s business, but a more refined coming together.  A character highlighted in one story may make an appearance in another story, either as a passer-by or frequenting a common location, or some such other method. These understated references add another element of interest which excited me when I first noticed.  I even made a mental note saying, “Hey, I know that person!” as I quickly scanned the prior story in search of the interloper – kind of like a photo bomber – fun!

I highly recommend “Hairway to Heaven Stories” by Patty Somlo. It was such a treat to read. The writing is brilliant, the stories original, the characters divine. No matter the circumstance or issue facing the characters, each one finds a sense of overcoming their obstacles or at least finds something to be positive about. In a world full of uncertainty and chaos, it’s nice to be reminded to spend more time focusing on the good.