Bittersweet & Sour – Review of Sweet Story by Carlton Mellick III

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Sally is an odd little girl. It’s not because she dresses as if she’s from the Edwardian era or spends most of her time playing with creepy talking dolls. It’s because she chases rainbows as if they were butterflies. She believes that if she finds the end of the rainbow then magical things will happen to her–leprechauns will shower her with gold and fairies will grant her every wish. But when she actually does find the end of a rainbow one day, and is given the opportunity to wish for whatever she wants, Sally asks for something that she believes will bring joy to children all over the world. She wishes that it would rain candy forever. She had no idea that her innocent wish would lead to the extinction of all life on earth.

Sweet Story is a children’s book gone horribly wrong. What starts as a cute, charming tale of rainbows and wishes soon becomes a vicious, unrelenting tale of survival in an inhospitable world full of cannibals and rapists. The result is one of the darkest comedies you’ll read all year, told with the wit and style you’ve come to expect from a Mellick novel.

I love stories about wishes, stories about monkeys paws, magic lamps, deals with devils, and the inevitable horror that follows as the wish goes horribly wrong. I love stories about wishes so much I even wrote a whole book of them, Try Before You Die. Carlton Mellick III’s latest, Sweet Story, is a story about a wish that goes horribly wrong, and it is a corker . Sweet Story starts off reading like a children’s book, the prose pitch perfect in effect, establishing a mood of light wonder which is then gorgeously, hideously destroyed by the reality of a child’s innocent wish being granted. There is a double pleasure in this kind of tale; first, the delicious tension of knowing that something awful is about to happen, and second, just how that awfulness is brought about. Sweet Story delivers on both counts; its set-up as a children’s book means that when the twist in the wish comes -and it’s a great one- the impact is all the more brutal. And not to give anything away, but the ending is perfect (and even I as an avowed addict of these kinds of tales didn’t see it coming.) As far as stories about wishes go, this one now joins the ranks of my absolute favourites, so much so in fact that I wish CM3 would write some more…

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