Lewis J. Beilman III’s short story collection, The Changing Tide, presents us with multifaceted, thought-provoking stories about life in these United States at this moment in time–yet with universal themes of race, class, sexuality, and making human connections that will continue to resonate.
As I read each story, I particularly appreciated the quality of the prose. Beilman has devoted time and care to developing his craft, and it shows. I also appreciated his skillful use of the unreliable point of view character. I was able to experience and understand these characters’ way of responding to the world around them, while at the same time seeing its negative impact on the other people in the story and, by extension, on our society. This is a difficult balance to pull off, and Beilman does it masterfully, never crossing the line into stereotype or caricature.
The standout in the collection is the novella Fourth of July, which, it should be noted, is not for the faint of heart (graphic sex). It starts innocuously enough with a family who has too many channels on the television, nothing to watch, and nothing in particular to say to each other. What to do, what to do? What the father decides to do to help his little family overcome their ennui born of privilege shocked me, but I couldn’t stop reading. The ending of Fourth of July was as chilling as it was unexpected.
The placement of the stories in the collection is particularly well-considered, giving the book as a whole an ebb and flow of its own, which resulted in an exceptionally satisfying reading experience. When I closed the book on the last story, I was very glad I had decided to read the stories in the order in which they are presented, and I would encourage other readers to do the same. I will definitely be watching for Beilman’s next collection!