The Acorn Stories by Duane Simolke. Available at Smashwords.com.
Summary: “From romantic comedy to razor-sharp satire to moments of quiet reflection, Duane Simolke’s award-winning tales transform a fictional West Texas town into a tapestry of human experiences.”
This is a book of short stories about the residents of a fictional town called Acorn, in West Texas. I probably wouldn’t have paused on this book ordinarily, but I was invited by the author to read it and I’m glad I did.
The stories here are basically normal stuff: people getting mad, falling in love, struggling financially, making babies, etc etc. It’s a nice representation of the things that go on behind the scenes in other people’s lives that are so easy to forget about. Almost every story has a different tone and point of view, yet they all come together and fit perfectly. The stories range from a blackmail letter, to a stream-of-consciousness while lap swimming, to a woman’s messages on her mom’s answering machine. Some characters make an appearance in more than one story, so the reader gets to know them and see them how other Acorn residents see them. Approximately a year goes by in Acorn over the course of the book.
I’ll say again that I liked this book, but I think I would have liked it more if there were a little more drama or scandal going on. There is some, but perhaps I’m desensitized. I read for the same reason I watch a movie or a TV show: to be entertained. Reading about normal people’s lives isn’t as entertaining as reading about murder mysteries and magic-casting elves. If it were a novel of the same length focused on only one family, it would give more time for the reader to get to know those characters closely. As-is, little snippets of time are taken out of context and strung together like scenes in a movie, never staying focused long enough to get stale.
The Bottom Line: I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but this is a nice, well-written set of stories.