Freedom’s Just Another Word Review
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Because I enjoyed Burning Tulips, I was excited to be one of the first to read Diane Payne’s new book. Published by Sweatshoppe Publications, Freedom’s Just Another Word depicts vagabonds, travelers, and strays in this collection of peculiar and interesting stories.

Freedom’s Just Another Word is a beautiful mediation on not just where people go, but why. In “Small Talk,” a soon-to-be trekker pulls out three-month-old envelopes filled with condolence letters for his wife’s passing. “Couldn’t open them when they arrived. Couldn’t throw them away either. So I take them with me to read before I begin my long walk. What an ass,” he explains to the woman sitting next to him. After exchanging profound small talk on a plane to Nepal, he arrives where he has been longing to be even before the plane lands. This short story, like many of the stories in the collection, is more about the destination the character reaches than about where he is physically going.

  
 
This collection invoked restlessness within me. It made me want to travel, and I felt like I should be listening to it while on a highway or reading it while on a plane. No sooner had this feeling set in than I ran across the short story, “A Strange Feeling.” It begins, “You’re waiting for someone to announce boarding while reading this book, or at least looking at this book trying to appear as if you’re reading, when the man next to you leans over and asks, ‘What do you think?’” This use of the second person literally puts the reader on a journey—at least to the airplane bar. And I found the meta insertion both humorous and clever. It certainly kept my interest.

While I did enjoy Freedom’s Just Another Word, I did eventually become frustrated with the e-book. I would find stories that seemed to be connected to others, but I was unable to go back and check because my copy did not have a Table of Contents. In a printed book, it would have been simple to flip back and forth. However, even without a Table of Contents, e-books tend to encourage linear reading. Freedom’s Just Another Word feels like it needs more of a circular reading. Luckily, Sweatshoppe Publications offers the book in print, and since my copy was an Advanced Reader Copy, I’m hoping that any e-book edition will have the Table of Contents.

Sweatshop Publications’ description of Freedom’s Just Another Word doesn’t lie. It is “a collection of oddball stories,” and, for a while, I struggled with writing the review. As is the case with all collections, some stories have lingered with me more than others. But the collection’s overall impression has been a lasting one. I now wonder about hitchhikers and commuters alike and why they’re traveling—what they’re searching for, perhaps without even being aware of it. And, more importantly, I find myself pondering the nature of my own travels—even mundane ones.

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