This Alone Could Save Us by Santino Prinzi

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This Along Could Save Us is a flash fiction collection of 51, yes 51 short pieces of flash.

The book is a real quick read and works as a great palate cleanser between larger books, the stories aren’t very deep but are enjoyable with the flow of Prinzi’s prose, but for me, the collection was lacking something and I’ll try to unpack that as we head into the review.

I first came to know the name of Santino Prinzi from the flash fiction festival a few years back before lockdown threw a huge spanner into the works and put a hold on that for the time being. I’d heard Prinzi read some of his flash in an open mic evening at the festival and I was really impressed with his work. At the time I was new to flash, having only dabbled in the field and coming to a festival dedicated to the craft helped me tremendously in my own work, I’d also attended a workshop that Prinzi was also running too. The guy can write, there is no mistaking that.

I found This Alone Could Save Us a bit of a mixed bag if I’m honest, I know it was a collection of flash so was expecting it to be a mixture of his musings, but for me it seemed all over the place with its themes and stories and lost my focus on many occasions. It may be that I’ve been reading collections of flash that have themes running through them, or novella’s in flash, but for me it just seemed disjointed and many of the stories didn’t leave an impact.

I’ve only recently started to use sticky notes in my books to help me remember parts of books that I really enjoyed and with collections this helps me to identify stories I liked at the flick of a page. When I look back at This Alone Could Save Us I only had 8 sticky notes in the book – so that’s 8 stories out of the 51 that I really enjoyed, or found something within the prose that I loved. That’s again not to say this is a bad collection it just wasn’t for me, I guess that’s down to the eye of the reader and why reviews are important for a broad picture. Those 8 stories I enjoyed did speak to me though, they had me raising my eyebrows in appreciation for what Prinzi had done, or chuckling to myself with the wit he put across on the page.

The collection starts with When the Moon Distances Itself which I really enjoyed. I loved the almost social commentary of this piece, it was sharp like a scalpel and the message of the story hit home hard. The prose in this piece is a delight and it was a stunning way to start the collection – I’d go as far to say that this piece and the last piece in the collection are my favourite – they bookend the collection nicely too as they are both about the moon and our own complexities.

‘Now we stare down at our phones and regard our neighbours with suspicion.’

Another story I enjoyed because it made me laugh was A Confidence of Seagulls which shows that Prinzi can also do humour and do it really well, it’s an odd story, some would say weird fiction, and I’d agree, this is also my type of flash fiction. It deals with some familial issues but has a great construction too. A young man is hounded by a group of seagulls that are intent on mugging him for what he has, weird right? But the voice of the piece is striking and I really got a sense of character in this piece.

Dissolve was a beautifully poetic piece that deals with some hard hitting topics, body image and sexuality and although this story is brief it packs a punch to the gut. It’s the small turns of phrase that Prinzi uses in this story that make it masterful, he doesn’t come right out and say what is going on, but more so alludes to it, which in my opinion makes the story that much more striking.

This Alone Can Save Us the title story of the collection was again another home run, this one follows two people on a plane that is about to crash, the tension, the writing and the story itself are all wonderfully curated and make this a fabulous piece of flash fiction – for me this is when flash is used to it’s best the small turn of phrase at the end of the story that helps make the final impact all that much sweeter.

I think that the main issue I had with the collection was that there wasn’t enough meat on the bones, many of the stories in my opinion could have used a little more story, as they seemed like short passages from a longer piece, cut up and repurposed. There wasn’t enough to get me hooked and enjoy the ride, I’d get the feeling it was going somewhere and then the story would end, or Prinzi would have lost me already with characters that I couldn’t connect to due to their voice in the piece – I wanted him to make me care more for his protagonists but I just couldn’t connect with them. There is the theme of relationship that you can see weaving itself through the collection, but for a relationship to work you need to care for those in it, and as I mentioned I struggled with these in many of the stories.

But the stories are constructed well and Prinzi’s prose in the handful of stories that I really enjoyed was beautiful almost poetic. I’ll be checking out more of his work in the future, maybe the novel I understand he’s working on as I’d love to see what he’s able to do with a longer piece of work.

This Alone Could Save Us is published by AdHoc Fiction and is available here.

Santino Prinzi

I’m a Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK and I’m a part of the founding team who organise the annual Flash Fiction Literary Festival, a literary festival dedicated solely to flash fiction. I’m also a Consulting Editor at New Flash Fiction Review. I have also judged various flash fiction competitions, including the Bath Flash Fiction Award.

My new flash fiction collection, This Alone Could Save Uswas published in July 2020 by Ad Hoc Fiction. My flash fiction pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This, was published by V-Press in 2018, and my debut mini-collection of flash fiction, Dots and other flashes of perceptionwas published by The Nottingham Review Press in 2016. I am currently “working on a novel” as they say!

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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