The Malta Independent 13 July 2024, Saturday
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Book review: The story teller judge

Noel Grima Sunday, 4 June 2023, 08:35 Last update: about 2 years ago

'L-Imxennqa ghall-Gizirana'

Author: Toni Abela

Publisher: Kite Group / 2022

Pages: 247


I must admit I approached this book rather diffidently. For some of my family and friends had been telling me that Toni Abela gathered them around him in the kazin while he read to them "the chapter about Noel".

They never told me what the chapter was about but anyway when I got hold of the book there was no such chapter in it.

I have known the author, Judge Toni Abela, for most of our lives. I even remember him when for a short time he joined the Society of St Paul, cassock and all.

He used to attend the Lega, the Catholic Action club for young males in High Street and we used to play football in the playground of the club, now unfortunately neglected. I don't know about any football prowess but I can tell he packs a strong kick, either at the ball or your leg.

Maybe on occasion the ball would end up in one of the yards surrounding the playground and some of us would set up a cry to "Ozzie's sister" to throw the ball back. That is my earliest memory of the person who many years later became my wife.

Anyway, years later I was the officiating priest at Toni's wedding at Ghajn Dwieli. I was about to begin the speech when Patri Dijonisju, who was concelebrating, asked to say "a couple of words".

And then he went on and on. I distinctly remember the bride (it was past midday on a hot summer day in July) blowing at the veil in front of her face out of sheer frustration. There was no point in me adding my sermon, at that point.

Before or after this, Toni had written a rock opera Kristu that we, the Folkmass and the Greenfields, put up in various locations in Hamrun and even at the Catholic Institute.

Then came politics, in and out of Labour and the interim years in the third party, Alternattiva Demokratika. For my wider family, as I was to learn when I joined it, he was (and still is) "our Toni" especially when he popped in during the festa for a plate of pasta.

And now the book. It is a collection of 37 short stories, gleaned from all corners of the world. As far as I could see, none except the first one has a Maltese setting.

Other authors do otherwise, including as I will be saying in some weeks' time, a former judge. But that is not Toni's choice and, given the Maltese situation, I can't say I disagree.

The first story, the one that gives the book its title, is one of the best, leading the reader through unsuspected steps, to a completely unexpected conclusion.

Many of the stories introduce a touch of fear, sometimes due to a paranormal event, such as about a radio set that keeps playing the same song from days long past. Or the story about a terrible revenge enacted by a teacher's assistant.

Other stories go even a bit further - such as the one that speculates about a new revelation regarding Christ's Resurrection. Or the terrible revenge of a downtrodden and henpecked husband after 42 years of humiliation.

The book ends with another paranormal tale about an unexplainable healing involving a girl who had died many years before.

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