Review: ForGiving, Dark Tales from the Charity Shop by Tony Hunt

ForGiving is the story of a charity shop and its many volunteers. It’s the story of people kindly giving up their time for charity. It’s about their own little lives, and how they are all so separate yet interlinked at the same time. It’s also a story about death and murder. Just like your average, everday charity shop then.

If I’m honest, I bought this on a bit of a whim. I saw a mostly-ignored advert (as most adverts for self-pubbed books unfortunately are) and I was intrigued. I used to manage a charity shop, back in another lifetime, and I was curious to see where the author was taking this one, and how true-to-life it would be. When it arrived, though, I wasn’t too sure how I was going to find it.

Despite drumming it into myself that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – especially given my prior knowledge that this is a self-published book – I couldn’t help but find the cover wanting. Not enticing, certainly. Still, I gave it a go and I am most definitely glad I did, because this is a delightful little book that I rather raced through.

The author himself describes it as a collection of short stories but don’t let that put you off because actually, it’s anything but. Rather, it’s the same story, told several times, from different people’s points of view. As you’d expect, there is some deviation in each rendition, as the characters talk about what is going on in their own lives, but ultimately, this is one book with one over-riding tale – and what a great tale that is.

It’s dark, certainly, but in a light-hearted and fun sort of way. There is plenty of dark humour peppered throughout and there’s no gory grusomeness that often accompanies these sorts of books nowadays. Instead, it’s a good old mystery that’ll keep you guessing to the end. When I turned the last few pages, I believe I even uttered ‘ha’ aloud.

There are two type of charity shop nowadays. Big business goliaths, such as the one I used to work for, and smaller, run by a bunch of old folk and a barely-there part-time manager, shops. The ForGiving shop falls most definitely into the latter and so, as fun as it was to read, it didn’t quite have the nostalgia I was expecting.

The characters were another matter though. A mishmash of personalities and backgrounds, all thrown together into one place, Hunt managed to create a realistic, well-written, and fantastic bunch of characters. He managed to get to the nuance of what it is to be a volunteer, and he really captured the atmosphere of a volunteer-based environment well. I’d love to know more about them, perhaps read a spin-off book about some of them – Mickey, Monica, and Julia to be precise (hint, hint, Mr Hunt).

Hunt’s writing style, too, is light and flows well. He includes just enough information to keep you going but doesn’t bore you with too many details, and he manages to create a clear and unique voice for each first-person narration, meaning that you never get confused over ‘who’s talking now?’ This book really is escapism at its best, and I hope to discover more from Hunt in the years to come.

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