Jerusalem Ablaze by Orlando Ortega-Medina

A Review by Catherine Mongrain

Jerusalem Ablaze is an eclectic collection of short stories set in every corner of the world, from Japan to Canada. The collection of stories, most only a couple of pages long, play out scenarios which leave you with many questions. The author’s ability to build such complex and thought provoking storylines with only a couple of pages is impressive. He introduces you to a series of characters, each more awed than the next and gives you a glimpse of their lives. Most of the stories have quite dark undertones that come up unexpectedly and make this novel not suitable for everyone. Several of the stories start and end abruptly, leaving you to  fill in the blanks with your imagination. I felt I could only read one or two stories at a time as they left quite an impression on me and I needed time to process them in order to move to the next. This speaks greatly to the author’s ability to craft deep stories in a few pages. Each story touched a variation on similar themes of love, death, sexuality, and religion. As a collection, they were dark evaluations of some of life’s biggest questions.

I wouldn’t recommend this book as a book club read as a collection of short stories are hard to discuss, especially the themes brought out in these, but it would be interesting to read a full novel from this author. Though not for the faint of heart, the thought-provoking short stories contained in this book made for a very interesting and different read. I’d recommend it for readers who enjoy a bit of the macabre and want to expand their reading horizons.