A Penny For Your Thoughts follows the story of Joe Openshaw, a convict and recovered junkie who has just been released from jail and is trying to get his life together again.
While hiking, he finds a jar full of old pennies and torn pieces of paper taped to them. Each of these pieces of paper have a child’s handwritten wish on them. Every time Joe reads one, the wishes come true. At first, the wishes are simplistically beneficial, and Joe uses them for his own gain, but eventually, word gets out through his community about the pennies that grant wishes. More importantly, Joey learns that every wish comes with a price.
Published by Poltergeist Press, this book was written by Bram Stoker award nominated author Matt Hayward and the equally talented Robert Ford. A single word to describe this tale would be bleak. The story is set in a poverty-stricken American town, with most of the characters struggling to get by through honest work, or turning to a life of crime to put food on the table. That’s only the beginning of the story, but this setting is very important as each of the characters use the wishes in the hope of some way escaping their personal problems.
When the wishes are first granted, the writers use them as plot devices to introduce the reader to key characters and even include comedic elements before going into the meat of the story. The best joke in the story is when Joe’s friend Kenny reads his wish, and the payoff is priceless.
This humour is nice alleviation in an otherwise dark story, equally likely to put off or encourage some readers of A Penny For Your Thoughts. However, when the wishes take a sinister turn, the plot gets all the more enticing as the protagonists start to realise what they have stumbled upon. The story also has heart, especially in the relationship that Joe shares with his dad and his own personal struggles as a recovering drug addict.
The book isn’t particularly long, and the language is informal, considering it’s written in a first-hand perspective, so the reader could power through this story quite easily. However, its size makes a nice compact story, staying consistently coherent and easy to follow.
A Penny For Your Thoughts is a nice mixed bag of literary goodness. The book is a very well written piece of dark contemporary fiction which contains strong elements of comedy to balance the plot. In the same way the characters can’t resist the power of the wish granting coins, the reader will be equally hard pressed to put this book down.
Review copy provided
A Penny For Your Thoughts is a tantalizing read about dark magic in the heart of poverty stricken America. While far from a happy tale, it is an intriguing one that shouldn’t be overlooked.