"Not Fair" by Steven Manchester is a short story that works as a teaser for his novel, Three Shoeboxes. In this story, readers are introduced to Mac, a father struggling with severe anxiety. By reading this story before the book's release, I feel that there is a foundational connection with the main character. I haven't even started the novel yet and I already feel empathy and sympathy for Mac as he struggles to live his life without alcohol to ease his constant worry and fear.
Manchester also sets up conflict in this story as Mac's marriage and the relationships he has with his children are all strained by his anxiety. Through the story, Manchester demonstrates how close Mac and his wife were early on in their marriage. He then shows how much has changed which creates an emotional conflict that will undoubtedly be expanded upon in the novel. The struggle to connect with and be there for his children was the aspect of the story that hit me the hardest. This short story, a few pages about Mac taking his children to the county fair, presents a family falling apart. It succeeds as a teaser for the novel as readers of the short story hope that Mac can face his anxiety, share it with his family, and find a way to overcome it.
Synopsis for Three Shoeboxes:
Mac Anderson holds life in the palm of his hand. He has a beautiful wife, three loving children, a comfortable home, and a successful career. Everything is perfect—or so it seems. Tragically, Mac is destined to learn that any sense of security can quickly prove false. Because an invisible enemy called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has invaded Mac’s fragile mind and it is about to drop him to his knees. He does all he can to conceal his inner chaos, but to no avail. Left to contend with ignorance, an insensitive justice system, and the struggles of an invisible disease, he loses everything—most importantly his family.
One shoebox might store an old pair of sneakers. Two shoeboxes might contain a lifetime of photographs. But in Three Shoeboxes, a father’s undying love may be just enough to make things right again.
(Access to this short story is available by signing up for Steven Manchester's mailing list.)