I usually open a book of short stories with a certain level of trepidation. Even though I have a number of collections of short stories by several authors, I frequently find that many of the stories are as fulfilling as rummaging around an empty box of chocolates, sniffing the wrappings for the ghost of the chocolate. Often in the pages I find partially formed characters around a vague story that ultimately doesn't satisfy. But, this collection was different. From the first story, the characters appear fully formed and the stories are strong. The book is about identity. In some stories it's about people finding their identity, in others they are slowly losing it. Some have their identity removed from them by other people who are afraid of what they see. The book is about passion, it is about life, death, and everything in between that makes us human. The first story is a dark tale of repression, lust, shame, fear, love, desire and secrets. This is a man who is ashamed of what he feels for his son, he holds secrets from his wife who he loves, but feels he is failing. He has desires that seem to control his behaviour and he is ultimately afraid of what those desires mean. From here, you are led almost seamlessly from story to story, life to life. A woman who has only one desire, to lose something unwanted. A young woman trying to use the bible to teach her father about acceptance. An old woman who is slowly losing her identity to dementia. A man whose mother is so afraid of who her son is that she erases his partner from existence. Some people you meet for their lifetime, while others you visit for less than a day. Each person, each family, is so exquisitely brought to life by Michael. In only a few pages you know these people, you want to reach into the pages and hold them to you. Some you want to hug, some you want to whisper that everything is going to be okay, some you want to give a solid talking to. But at the end of each story, you mourn their passing. Occasionally I shook my hand at Michael's book because I didn't want to leave this particular family or this particular person, I wanted to spend more time with them, but no, Michael was moving on to the next story. Other times, I closed my eyes at the end of the last word of the last sentence and sighed for the story's perfect ending. The writing is simple. It contains no Regency era flowery prose, a la Ms Austen. But, Michael weaves a magic that engages you, draws you in, and then you come across a sentence, a paragraph, that when finished, you re-read, and re-read again, because what it is saying is so true, so real that you don't want to lose it. There is a common theme to this book. These are stories of people who are same-sex attracted, or have family members who are same sex attracted. These are tales of personal and familial struggles, victories and losses. If you are a person who has issues with same-sex relationships, you may find these stories to be a little confronting. But, I urge you to read them, because ultimately, these are stories that everyday people are living, every day. When I finished the last story I closed my Kindle with satisfaction and sadness. I want to know these people better. I want to spend more time with them. But, that is the magic of books. In a few weeks, when my hard copy of the book arrives, I can open the book and dive back into their lives.