Books Reviews

Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons

Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons by Keith Rosson

With Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons, award-winning author Keith Rosson once again delves into notions of family, identity, indebtedness, loss, and hope, with the surefooted merging of literary fiction and magical realism he’s explored in previous novels. In “Dunsmuir,” a newly sober husband buys a hearse to help his wife spread her sister’s ashes, while “The Lesser Horsemen” illustrates what happens when God instructs the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to go on a team-building cruise as a way of boosting their frayed morale. In “Brad Benske and the Hand of Light,” an estranged husband seeks his wife’s whereabouts through a fortuneteller after she absconds with a cult, and the returning soldier in “Homecoming” navigates the strange and ghostly confines of his hometown, as well as the boundaries of his own grief. With grace, imagination, and a brazen gallows humor, Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons merges the fantastic and the everyday, and includes new work as well as award-winning favorites.

This book is a collection of short stories. I do not like short stories because I view them as parts sheared off of a novel. 

For someone who keeps wondering about characters even after finishing full-length novels, short stories can be downright painful. You’d think that would automatically make me not read it.

However, this is also the first time I have come across a Keith Rosson book. So, I thought I should read some and then decide. As I mentioned earlier, short stories leave me wondering what happened next. Rosson takes it to the next level and leaves them with non-traditional endings. I forgave him only because somehow they made sense to me and because some parts of the book reminded me of Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, and even Terry Pratchett!

I am always intrigued by the different angles from which people view things. Rosson has a different lens altogether. His stories have this wacky sense of fun mixed with dark, twisted sense of misery. Shades of dystopia, apocalypse, a slice of the underbelly of the world, and sometimes, a touch of tenderness and hope…

Two asides:

  • He has not mentioned the title anywhere else. So, I never got to know which folk songs trauma surgeons listen to. However, here’s what he told Paul Semel about the title.
  • I did not read ‘Their Souls Climb the Room’, which is about a hog-slaughtering plant and a man who works there.

To sum up, an interesting book with something to smile at and something to despair about.


I received a free copy of the book from Tricia Reeks at Meerkat Press. I reviewed it voluntarily.

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