Upon buying this book, I was more than a little excited, filled with anticipation to read from people who have grown up, lived in, and otherwise thrived or struggled in the Las Vegas valley- a place I am proud to call home. Starting with an insightful forward by Dr. Jarret Keene, I quickly realized the diversity of stories in this anthology. It isn’t what I expected at all, but I was looking forward to the read nonetheless after Dr. Keene’s apt description. I enjoy seeing the perspective of locals from Vegas who view our “Sin City” as a place full of love, and not just sin. People all around the world write about Las Vegas, but few view the city in the way the locals do, and it’s lovely to see the contrast in the legend versus the reality from those who call it home. Dr. Keene even goes so far as to quote Emily Dickinson, a favorite of mine, who once wrote; “The heart wants what it wants”, which I feel goes so far to describe the passion many writers know so well, and instantly set the tone for this novel of stories.
However, I found this book to be very hit or miss for me. Like all anthologies, you have stories you love, and stories you skim. The best story, for me, was “The Canyon I Never Reached” by Melissa Bowles-Terry. It was very well placed, being the first, immediately drawing me in with the skillful telling of a love that wasn’t chosen. This was the type of story I expected from this book- it had clear reasons to be connected to Las Vegas, it had a clear story of love and loss, it tugged at the heartstrings.
I also truly enjoyed “Sugar” by Nicole Minton, a story about a young woman who explored the Sugar baby industry that thrives in the Las Vegas underbelly- and what happens when you grow feelings for what began as a transaction. It had a unique perspective that isn’t often talked about, and I enjoyed the read.
But… Many of the stories seemed a little bit random, having little to do with Vegas- or even with love, it seemed, at times. One is even told in a second person narrative, the first time I’ve ever seen it in a published work. Though this is a valid writing style, it wasn’t my personal cup of tea and I found myself struggling to get through it. I will also note that there is a unique series of text art from an artist named Krystal Ramirez, and while I know a more artistic eye will be able to pull some further meaning from her art, I wasn’t able to. It’s just not what I expected or could gather inspiration from, and in that way, it did very little for my experience reading the anthology. But I won’t claim to be an abstract artist- My own artistic eye for anything besides story writing is lacking.
I will also admit that I expected a more Non-fiction or contemporary vibe from this anthology. The stories of fantasy, of sci-fi, they really threw me off. On their own, they might have been fine, but judging them within an anthology from Las Vegas writers, about love and loss, was difficult for me. I feel like this anthology is quite a mis-match of unusual ways to reflect art in Las Vegas, with unique perceptions and an artistic rendering of words. I enjoyed the read, but because I only truly connected to a handful of the stories and authors, it affected my rating and brought it down to a 2 out of 5. I have to consider what I got from the anthology as a whole, and for me, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.