For the most part, The Missing Loved Ones is a collection of short stories about everyday people, who live everyday lives. For instance, in The Gift readers meet George and Lenore, a couple struggling with financial problems and Lenore’s scarring accident a few months prior. Eviction notices, inability to secure a loan, biweekly unemployment checks, bouts with self-doubt and low self-confidence – these are the issues of so many ordinary Americans. As is the loss of sex life between these once devoted spouses.
Later in the novella, in the story titled Safe Word, author TNae Wilcox introduces Nora, a fed up and harassed employee working in a sandwich shop. Nora’s boss Rodger is an obvious jerk, and the epitome of a horrible boss. It is apparent that every member of staff despises him, and readers immediately connect with Nora and her painful position of needing but hating her job.
As these and the other short stories begin, the characters’ problems and situations seem harsh, but not out of the ordinary. That is, up until the moment author TNae Wilcox throws readers off kilter in ways that are impossible to see coming. Even by the third short story, He’s You, readers know there is a theme to the storylines, but predicting where each plot will go is impossible.
As you read the first story in the collection, Whirring, you begin to sense something foreboding and unusual will happen to the main character Matt. He is visiting an old, but toxic best friend, Jake, who is seems to be having a mental breakdown. TNae Wilcox masterfully builds the tension between Matt and Jake, and nothing prepares you for the supernatural curve ball that comes.
After Whirring each story proceeds on a similar basis. A sympathetic character is introduced. A set of unfortunate accidents or mere circumstances has previously befallen this character. Wilcox then distracts the reader’s attention with these relatable issues. Then smack, the main character is swept up in bizarre, paranormal events, and suddenly nothing in these stories is everyday.
Whether it is hints of the supernatural, all out witchcraft, or peculiar propensities of the characters, each story has its own twist or turn. Wilcox introduces these imaginative, supernatural elements with the same straightforward language as she presents her characters. As you read, it begins to feel as if these events could happen, that they could be true stories. It is an enticing rabbit hole, where nothing as it should be but still seems right.
If there is any shortcoming to these well-crafted short stories it is the abrupt endings. Wilcox often leaves readers stranded at what would seem to be the climatic moment of the narrative. Be prepared to flip the page expecting a second half or true ending. It isn’t there. While this is a bit disconcerting as a reader, it does keep you thinking about the story long after you finish the novella.
Through these stories Wilcox introduces themes of justice, karma, and of course, whether the unbelievable could possibly be real. The stories are each a conceptual rollercoaster, told and toned down by Wilcox very straightforward storytelling and language.
by TNae Wilcox
Determined to make her mark in speculative fiction, TNae Wilcox assembled a novella-length collection of short and short, short stories that are entertaining, and humorous at times. Includes: He’s You – A young boy has a miraculous recovery in the hospital and comes home to find that he’s not done fighting for his life. The Gift – A wife looks to dark magic to end her woes. Whirring – A man wishes he had listened to the signs. Two of the Same Kind – Two kids from opposite sides of the social spectrum decide they aren’t so different. What About Her – When the abduction takes place, grandpa is far from being useless. Prankster in the Box – Heed the warnings, ven if it is from a neighbor who collects birds. Safe Word – A woman gets the upper hand on her condescending supervisor.