The Moth Presents: Occasional Magic
True Stories About Defying the Impossible
Edited by Catherine Burns
Crown Archetype. 248 pp. $25
Reviewed by Holly Collier Willmarth
(Minneapolis) Star Tribune
I wasn’t familiar with the Moth podcast’s brand of live storytelling when I opened this collection, but now I’m a convert. Even without the audience and the stage, the 47 brief stories pulse with energy and vulnerability. There are some well-known names along with new voices, sharing stories of bravery from all over the world. I told myself to savor the pages, but instead I raced through them, like a child at bedtime. Just one more story. Just one more.
A dental-school resident tells of being held hostage by rebels at a hospital in Colombia, forced to treat a dangerously infected boy — with no anesthesia, little experience, and at the point of a rifle. A lonely Jehovah’s Witness describes venturing outside the church’s rules (and onto Tinder) to find a partner. South Sudanese refugees recount settling in Maine. They misunderstood the instructions about the fire alarm and fled their apartment at the sound of the doorbell. A Macalester English professor describes keeping a secret, dangerous cache of books as a child during China’s Cultural Revolution and learning the power of storytelling when they were destroyed.
That magical power is more than occasional in this collection, and the book would make a great gift, perhaps even whetting the appetites of reluctant readers for one more story of bravery. Just one more.