Monday, December 22, 2003

Review by John Mudd for

The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer isn't a novel, but it was quite a novel idea created by author Duane Simolke, who gathered a group of authors together, five in all, to write against cancer in this lovely literary work that includes stories that range from gritty and controversial to gentle and touching, all helping to raise money for cancer cure research.

Simolke, who edited the book, writes in Fat Diary, what some may consider a controversially serious yet comical short fiction work, "I stifled the stereotypes that flooded my mind, and I mentally kicked myself for thinking of those stereotypes."

Ironically, the story is written as if it were the diary of Pam Willard, the 260-lbs. character keeping the diary.

Huda Orfali's Lynching takes a gritty look at violent acts taken toward homosexuals due to discrimination, and what horrible results can occur when individuals fail to deal with their prejudices.

In The Flamenco Painter, Shawna Chandler paints a heart-felt picture of a man's clouded conscience after losing someone special and close.

Bill Wetzel writes about a man's love for a woman who turns out to be a complete klutz, but it turns out that the klutziness is one of the things the man really loves about the woman, in A Morning By the River.

You can read all about a single teacher named Jonathan and his love for a woman named Ana in The 23rd of August by Timothy Morris Taylor. You can read about the many obstacles Jonathan overcame to be with Ana - obstacles that those who are truly in love overcome, no matter what. It's an inspiring story, showing us that no matter what obstacle gets in our way, love really does conquer each and every one.

Jan Chandler writes, in The Gun, "I grabbed the gun off the night stand, the first time I'd even touched it. I was going to take it into the kitchen and throw it in the trash can."

"That's when I heard the door slam."

"I almost wet myself."

There are also some quite touching stories in the book, including Orfali's Dancing With the Angels.

This book makes a spectacular holiday gift for the fiction lover in your life, and when purchasing The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer for that special someone this holiday season, you are not only buying a fantastic collection of short fiction to enjoy. You are also helping these authors to raise money for cancer cure research.

For the millions of Americans who suffer from cancer, The Acorn Gathering is truly a wonderful gift to which they contributed their writing gifts. Now it is up to readers everywhere to pick up where the authors left off and start reading for a cure.

With stories as good as these, it will be hard for readers to resist this book, whether reading for a cure or simply reading as a personal pleasure for themselves.

Review by L. L. Lee , author of The Sisters: Found in San Antonio

Duane Simolke's follow-up anthology to The Acorn Stories, The Acorn Gathering, is a study in human trials, triumphs and the power of relationships to hurt or heal. The book is a gathering of moving short stories written by a group of talented writers who call themselves "Writers Uniting Against Cancer." All royalties go to the American Cancer Society. As expected, many of the stories deal with often tragic health issues: cancer, depression and other forms of mental illness, alcoholism, obesity, suicidal ideology, unwanted pregnancy. Some of the characters triumph over their conditions while others do not.

In the midst of these life threatening issues that are handled in sensitive and inspiring ways, there are moments of laughter. Duane Simolke's "Fat Diary" is hilarious and could very well be expanded into a funny, uplifting novel. A simple love story by Bill Wetzel, "A Morning by the River" needs to be commended for reminding us of the pure joy of falling and being in love. And "The Gun" is well worth mentioning for its humorous, light treatment of a not so funny situation.

The Acorn Gathering is a good read. If you're looking for characters that fit the mold of traditional, you won't find them here. The book is like a warm, pleasing quilt made up of disparate, yet cohesive patches represented by characters of various ethnic backgrounds; among them, African and native Americans, Hispanic and Anglo Americans and with a few Texans sewn in.