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Book Review: Duck and Cover

Duck and Cover: Eleven Short Stories. Rich Elliott. Rich Elliott Productions, October 1, 2018, Trade Paperback, 152 pages.

Reviewed by Florence Osmund.

Duck and Coveris a delightful book of eleven short stories that take place in the sixties in the small town of Milford, Illinois, told through the eyes of adolescents. The title of the book—stemming from the drills school children were trained to do in case of an atomic bomb threat—is also the title of one of the stories told by a sixth-grade boy who reaches out to a girl who doesn’t fit in with the other classmates and who comes from a dysfunctional family. The tale ends in tragedy when the girl’s father makes a fateful decision that affects his whole family as well as the young boy who is narrating the story.

Other stories depict an eccentric grammar school teacher obsessed with diagramming sentences; a boy who is accused of causing bad luck for those who are close to him; a 1959 White Sox baseball card’s effect on a boy, a sports memorabilia shop owner, and his girlfriend; a girl’s crush on George Harrison; and a precocious boy interested in space, missiles, and foreign affairs, who later joins the Army and goes to war in Vietnam.

One story I think many of us can relate to is titled “First Base,” the story of a boy in his senior year of high school who hadn’t had much luck with girls. His friends set him up with a girl who happens to have a large, unsightly birthmark on her face. They go to Riverview Park where they go into the tunnel of love and he has his first kiss. Later that school year, she gets the birthmark removed and dumps the boy for the school’s star quarterback. A sad but too often tale of reality for the young at heart. 

I believe many readers—young and old—will be able to relate to one or more of these engaging slices of life. The author includes stories about the lighthearted aspect of survival in the sixties in mid-America but doesn’t ignore the darker side—the threat of an atomic bomb, the spread of communism, mobsters, creepy adults, and death. The mix, while sometimes frightening and not appropriate reading for young children, is a true depiction of life in that era.


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