Review: A Penny For Your Thoughts by Robert Ford and Matt Hayward

Cover of A Penny for Your Thoughts by Robert Ford and Matt HaywardA Penny For Your Thoughts by Robert Ford and Matt Hayward
Poltergeist Press (June 1, 2019)
264 pages; $21.99 hardcover; $15.99 paperback; $5.39 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

As far as introductions go, I couldn’t ask for a better way to familiarize myself with the talented voices of Bob Ford and Matt Hayward. A Penny For Your Thoughts is the collaborative effort of both authors. I’m impressed with how harmoniously they blended their storytelling because this read like one, seamless narrative.

Readers follow our main protagonist, Joe Openshaw, as he finds himself experiencing freedom after serving time in prison. On a hike, Joe finds a dirty jar full of pennies that had long been buried. Upon closer inspection, Joe realizes that the pennies have been taped to scraps of paper that read like childhood wishes. He decides to bring the jar home where he is painstakingly rebuilding his broken relationship with his dad.

Bob and Matt do an excellent job bringing Joe to life through a series of events involving colorful characters from Joe’s past. I especially loved Joe’s best friend, Kenny. I got a real sense that maybe if it wasn’t for Kenny, Joe was going to have a rough time adapting to his new life outside. He had an annoying tendency to want to act like this “changed man” at every single turn and it’s his buddy, Kenny, who keeps Joe from thinking he is in control of everything.

Even though the reader knows that the jar of wishes will serve as a catalyst for some unsavory circumstances, the authors make the bold choice of bringing some levity to the story. I find that the most enjoyable dark stories are the ones that can run you through a full spectrum of emotions. In one chapter, I’m cracking up and in the next, I’m totally creeped out—still other chapters feel poignant and sad.

We’ve all heard the phrase “Be careful what you wish for”—and all of us probably think that we would make wise decisions if we were given the opportunity to make wishes—but this story reminds us that fate and destiny aren’t the only forces at play. There might be even something more sinister at the bottom of a wishing well. Perhaps we should think twice about what we wish in our hearts as we hold an old wheat penny in our fingers. How far would anyone be willing to go to get exactly what they want, and what would be the ultimate price?

I loved the way these two authors took a classic cautionary tale and spun it into an original journey I would recommend to anyone and everyone. This is a must read!

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