Three Left Turns to Nowhere is made up of three short stories, bound together by the same other-worldly setting. Hopewell, a town so small it’s at risk of being missed by a blinking driver, lures three boys separately to its realm. There, they stumble upon mysteries that engage their hearts as furiously as their minds.
The first story in the collection, Jeffrey Ricker’s Roadside Assistance, is by far the shortest of the three. Coincidentally, it’s also the one that appears the most imbued with romantic sentiments. A teenage attraction blossoms across its pages, replicating the fierce mortification and hunger that make first times so memorable. A little juvenile and theatrical at times, it nevertheless presents an interesting concept.
Hopewell, sometimes regarded as “enchanted”, other times simply as “cursed”, offers glimpses of spirits as it maintains a higher power over its inhabitants. And yet, this feature is far from chilling. Interlacing the mortal and spiritual realms, the story urges Lyn, the protagonist, to take the chance that bares itself before him. The fact that it finds its embodiment in a boy named Ed is an incidental miracle.
Marshall Freeman’s The Scavenger Hunt follows on the heels of the first story, but offers slightly more snark, wit, and comedic timing. With a dazzling boy named Rome at the helm of the narrative, the story dives slightly deeper into the theme of otherness.
The Jewish protagonist’s sense of disconnection is magnified when he meets Darcy, a boy that represents the thwarted culture of his Indigenous mother.
Together, they explore the element of disunion in physical intimacy that is rarely addressed in literature, much less embraced so warmly. Skimming the spectrum, Freeman draws attention to asexuality, honoring its many complex forms. With that being said, the dialogue feels a little too affected at times, and the narration a bit too choppy, to provide a silky reading experience.
The last, and longest, story in the collection is ’Nathan Burgoine’s Hope Echoes. The central mystery transcends time and feeling as it sends Fielding, Logan and Joshua on a mission to deliver a letter, composed entirely of book ciphers, to its rightful addressee.
The “echoes” depicted in the story, which are the result of an emotional imprint left on a place, are a compelling notion, and give the story a uniquely transcendent feel.
Burgoine’s tale also binds all three stories together, placing them on a shared timeline so that they form narrative echoes of their own. And yet, the plot carries an undeniably saccharine undertone, overpowering the subtle intrigue formed by the sum of the story’s other parts.
Publication date: February 15, 2022 (Bold Strokes Books)