Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
To the casual observer, it looks like a dream trip. For Tate O’Reilly, it’s anything but. He’s a man on a mission to rectify a critical mistake, and there’s nothing to hold him back—certainly not friends or family. For Tate, it all comes down to one simple thing—he must fix what he has broken.
What he doesn’t count on is meeting Gabriel Carillo. Gabriel is kind, mysterious, and seems to be on his own mission to ensure their paths keep crossing. But Tate’s hiding an awfully big secret—one he’s certain even Gabriel can’t forgive.
Does a man’s past have to determine his future? In the middle of cities filled with history, Tate is going to find out.
Sometimes life just throws some eerie coincidences at you. Just a week or so before I started reading this story, a chemistry experiment in a high school lab in the DC Metro area when horribly wrong and many will carry the results of that flash fire for the rest of their lives. My first response to the media descriptions, which were vivid and harsh? How could that teacher have been so irresponsible? Not a reaction I’m proud of now but one I think that so many people had without thinking it over.
Thank you, J.E. Birk, for providing that other needed perspective, that of the teacher destroyed the accident that caught his students up in a conflagration of flames and pain. Just as I’m sure the one in the accident above was so forever personally changed, former chemistry teacher Tate O’Reilly has been ruined in almost every way possible. He’s emotionally devastated, physically scarred, the guilt has overwhelmed him and this trip is his way to make amends. This isn’t anything in a way of a spoiler as we are introduced to the reason he’s made the trip pretty much immediately into the story.
Birk does a beautiful job of ushering us into the mind of this broken man on a mission. Equipped with a list, Tate going to places very methodically, checking them off, not for himself but for someone who will never be able to go. Tate becomes very much alive through his tortured thoughts, the flashbacks, and even the things he sees as he visits each location.
Really, here the change in perspective really got to me. As it will you. It was a accident. Bad things happen to good people. But for many, its something they can never let go…on either side. Birk makes that pain fresh, horrendous and deep here. Talk about impact.
But Tate’s not the only walking wounded here. There will be more, including Gabriel Carillo, whose past and current mission will resonate both with Tate and the readers as well. I loved Gabriel, he is a beautiful character and thought that he needed more pages to bring out his character to the fullest.
And that brings me to my only issue here. Birk has so many deep topics in play here, some of which I can’t discuss because they do fall into spoiler territory, that the number of pages, 123, is just not enough to do them all justice. This story could easily have been double in length, if not a third. And yes, that includes the ending, which cries out for an epilogue.
After much speculation and denial, it looks as though the rules and regulations for conducting science and chemical experiments within a classroom or lab will be revised due to the accident above and others like it, apparently far too many. The author herself said the story was prompted by one like it as well. That ruling will protect future students, teachers and yes, the schools themselves. We all are there for the many students hurt or killed in these accidents. Rightfully so. But maybe now, with a powerful story like The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk, we will also remember the human being on the other side, the one hurting deeply as well. Remember that the reverberations and consequences fall both ways. And that redemption can follow the worst that can happen, and perhaps even love.
Thank you, J. E. Birk for the wonderful story and for reminding me. Lesson learned. I highly recommend this story to you all.
Cover artist Catt Ford does a great job with the characters and special location of Stonehenge. Love it.
ebook, 123 pages
Published March 23rd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634771303 (ISBN13: 9781634771306)