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Book Review: In the Heart of the Garden Is a Tomb


  • Title: In the Heart of the Garden Is a Tomb
  • Author: Joe Pawlowski
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre: Dark Short Stories, Magical Realism
  • Publishing Date: February 6th, 2022
  • Publishing Co.: Indie
  • Length: 210 pages
  • Format: Kindle Unlimited, Paperback
  • Acquired: Given free print copy in exchange for an honest review
  • Amazon Link: In the Heart of the Garden Is a Tomb

This garden is full of haunted people.

There’s Wash Greavor and his friends, lost on backwoods logging trails, who stumble on an ancient graveyard where a monstrous sentry from long ago awaits them.

Then there’s Corbin Grimwood and his new gun. It hums in his hand like a can full of bees. It brings him a feeling of protection and invincibility. Suddenly, he’s become a man of action. But as the old Corbin slips away, the new one is left wondering: at what point do our possessions come to possess us?

And Shelly Loomis, there’s a case for you: reduced to a shell of her former self by a frightful occurrence that has completely undone the mental balance of her best friend, and threatens her sanity as well if she doesn’t take drastic action.

There’s Rhoda Beekman, who collides head-on with a truck. She’s lucky to be alive, but not so lucky to find she’s now sharing her body with two other beings. There’s the old grifter who sells human skulls to the bereaved; the fading actor whose yearning to hang on to fame will come at the cost of a fellow actor’s life; the bachelor farmer grappling with a legacy of evil.

And there are others. Lost souls seeking a way out. But there’s no escaping the bitter truth that awaits us all in the heart of the garden.

Final Judgment: 3.5 Stars out of 4

Trigger Warning: 18+. Adult content. Sexual content, adult language, graphic violence.

Joe Pawlowski invites his readers on a journey to experience the darkness in a variety of people and cultures. Different genders, political stances, economic statuses, each character and their small slice of the world is unique. The only unifying factor between these diverse stories is their horrifying factor. Something always ends up terribly wrong.

I’ll admit that I went into this book not expecting a collection of short stories. Based off the blurb on the back and the Amazon/Goodreads pages, I thought this would be a “regular” novel, just with a large set of characters. I kept waiting for the tangential stories to intersect and force our characters and their lives together. Of course, that never happened. Perhaps that misconception is on me, and it may have colored my rating.

However, once I realized that these stories are self-encompassed, it was nice and easy to fall into each one. Pawlowski does an amazing job building his characters and ensuring that every MC is his/her own person. They have their own backstory, personality, and way of speaking that he brings to life on the page.

Some of the stories were a bit anti-climactic, and some of the characters were difficult to relate to, perhaps taking me out of their story. Luckily, there are several other stories within this collection that it can keep just about anyone’s attention!

Recommended for those who want a quick and easy read–of individual stories, or the whole collection–and are prepared for some dark and sometimes unsettlingly graphic scenes.


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