Foxhole by Jim Vanore
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (8 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe
This was Stan Nelchik’s first Father’s Day without his dad. The father of three girls himself, Stan was inherently protective, and came to believe in his father’s admonition that he was meant to be a “girl father,” not having the ability to handle a son.
“With boys, you gotta spit things out,” the senior Nelchik had always advised. “You can’t keep anything from them.”
But now, as Stan faces his first Father’s Day as a parent without his dad, he has to come to grips with the truth—his father, contrary to his own advice, had kept something from him, releasing it only on his death bed.
A visit from a stranger forces Stan into a decision that makes him realize just how difficult fatherhood can be—even when it doesn’t involve a member of your family.
Is honesty always the best policy? How does one balance telling the truth with protecting the innocent?
In some ways Mr. Nelchik has never stopped walking in his father’s shadow. Despite never serving in any wars or, to the best of my knowledge, being the victim of any crimes he has spent his entire adult life preparing for the "worst case scenario". For example, in one scene he tells his daughter, Sophie, to say something like this when she’s home alone and hears someone enter the house:
“Hey Bruno, come and take the dogs for a walk, will you?”
So that, if the person walking in is an intruder, he or she will assume there are several dogs and a man in the house instead of one teenage girl. This attention to detail and personal safety is something most people don’t incorporate into their daily lives. The fact that the Nelchik family has carried on this tradition for three generations (even if Mr. Nelchik’s daughters are a little less enthusiastic about the idea than is their father or grandfather) intrigued me from the beginning.
Small details like this are what makes Foxhole such a treat, though. I started reading it expecting a much more action oriented plot but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed slowly unfolding the mystery as the characters lived through one more seemingly ordinary day.
Foxhole shows in vivid detail how the decisions we make ripple not only through the rest of our lives but sometimes through the lives of our descendants as well. Rather than telling the reader what could or should have been done instead, though, Mr. Vanore leaves it up to us to imagine alternative futures for these characters. I cannot imagine a better ending to this fantastic little story.