Timmy Wilde has disappeared, but his mom has a pretty good idea of how to find him. God-fearing woman and devoted pastor’s wife she may be, but she’ll do whatever it takes to bring her son home. Some journeys take you to unexpected places.

You know you’re in safe hands when a story has a strong tone of voice from the opening paragraph. Personality goes a long way to settling me in for the ride (so does throwing something out there that gives me a papercut on my heart, but that’s a discussion for another day).

This is a good thing, as devout church-goer of the deeply conservative small town variety is a very long way from my comfort zone for first person narratives (or indeed any narratives; religion and I are polite, reserved strangers at best). But Bethesda Wilde is delightful in a belligerently judgmental sort of way, and Sam J Miller skilfully manages a dripfeed of information through colourful asides to form a fuller picture of her character and circumstances.

When you stop to consider that the entire story is technically a blog post written by Beth for the congregation of her husband’s church, there’s several different forms of courage on display. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t believe her husband will actually publish it – or at least not without careful editing – since she’s still confessing to (or hinting at) a host of sins to him. And it’s clear from the text how he’s likely to respond to that.

In some ways I remain surprised that I enjoyed this story, but it has such a warm heart and clear vision I found it difficult to resist. I can also cheerfully get behind the moral at the heart of it (it’s told by a pastor’s wife; of course it has a moral, although the Pastor is unlikely to approve).

Includes unexpected dinosaurs, for those of you (like me) who appreciate that sort of thing.

***

When Your Child Strays From God can be read online at Clarkesworld.

Sam J Miller’s debut novel The Art of Starving will be published in 2017. He has another short story – Things With Beards – in this month’s Clarkesworld.

Bite-sized Books is a weekly celebration of short-form fiction and you’re invited to join in! Share your recent review(s) of a short story, novella, novelette or anthology – add a link in the comments so we can share the love.