Book Review: RISK! by Kevin Allison (Editor)

Author:Kevin Allison (Editor)
TitleRISK!: True Stories People Never Thought They’d Dare to Share
Publication Info: Hachette Books (2018)

I started listening to the Risk! podcast years and years ago.  I was already listening to The Moth and other storytelling podcasts, and at first I thought this was just a tawdry attempt to have people tell the most prurient details of their sexual escapades.  But for some reason I kept listening and soon grew to realize that this was storytelling at its most raw.  People told stories of their abuse and trauma, the transitional moments of their life, as well as hilarious tales of everyday escapades gone wrong. Risk! was a podcast that brought out the humanity in every person brave enough to speak into the mic and the many people who could relate to their stories.

The Risk!  book gathers together some of the stories from the podcast as well as stories written specifically for the book.  In some cases, the stories lose something when you don’t hear the author’s voice, whether it’s someone who is a master of the live storytelling art who brings things out with their voice and mannerisms, or if it’s someone’s who uncertainty and nervous laughter of someone daring to speak words they never thought they’d utter before an audience.  On the other hand, some stories gain an extra something on the printed page.  I liked being able to skip back and review some details that I overlooked earlier in the story that become significant later on (granted one can rewind a podcast but it’s not as easy as flipping back the page) or catch the words lost in the audience laughter or mumbled by the storyteller.

My favorite stories include:

  • “The Gift” by Michelle Carlo -remembering a perfect moment with a boy while growing up in the Bronx shortly before he was murdered.
  • “Dressing the Wound” by Jim Padar – a Chicago cop remembers staunching the bleeding of a murder victim, keeping him alive along enough for his family to say goodbye.
  • “Always a Woman” by Morgan – a construction worker falls two stories in a building and realizes that she needs to recognize her identity.
  • “High Fidelity” by Jonah Ray – a story set in in a Venice Beach, California record store with shoplifters, on September 11, 2001.
  • “The Downward Spiral” by JC Cassis – the storyteller recounts the feelings of loss and regret during the final days of life of his depressed and isolated Uncle Fred.
  • “Doing Good” by Chad Duncan – a special education teacher with a gift for reading people deals with suddenly going blind.

It’s a terrific book and highly recommend that anyone who cares about their fellow humans read it (and listen to the podcast regularly, even if some of the stories feature the prurient details of sexual escapades)

Rating: ****