Saturday, July 24, 2004
It was an extreme pleasure reading The Acorn Gathering. The talented groups of writers have put together a wonderful collaboration of short stories. What makes this an outstanding buy is that all the royalties go to the American Cancer Society for cancer research. I highly recommend you go, buy copies for yourself and your loved ones, and enjoy reading this well-written book.
Each story in The Acorn Gathering deals with situations in life that most of us can easily relate to and have experienced. They deal with breast cancer, life on an Indian reservation, struggles of gay life in a small town, losing weight, divorce, coming to terms with feelings of a abandonment, and a wonderful story about a hero who goes to New York City to help after the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, just to name a few. If you think none of those stories sound like you, wait until you read them and experience the way each writer brought those issues into a world we all understand. I found myself caught up in several of the stories, feeling at times, that they were about my own life. This collaborative work, even though it is made up of different short stories, has a common thread that runs throughout the book that gives it an unbroken flow. One story seems to flow right into the next even when they are dealing with new people and new topics. This book has been put in a perfect reading order.
The first section of the book, “Acorn, Texas” begins with “Finding Acorns in Winter” by Duane Simolke. This story begins years back when the Indians inhabited the land where Acorn, Texas, now stands. The story goes back and forth between the time of the Indians and the present time where a woman is in the hospital after just having breast cancer surgery. The relationships between her daughter and her nurse, an American Indian, is beautifully written. It is a story of love and hope in dealing with “the silent killer,” breast cancer.
“The Seedling” by Janice Chandler is next. This story revolves around the relationship between two sisters, one a struggling artist. As with many of our relationships with our siblings, it shows how we often wish we had their lives instead of being grateful for our own. It deals with an unwanted pregnancy and the loss of the child during a moment when the artist’s work is beginning to be noticed.
Next, we have “Fat Diary” by Duane Simolke. This is one of the most humorous stories in the book and one of my two favorites. A woman, through her diary that she is told to keep while trying to lose weight, relays the events and happenings of her life. Many aspects of this story are easy to relate to. It is the conflict resolution and the woman’s ability to see things happen as she writes them that makes this piece so appealing.
The next two stories, “Again” by Duane Simolke and “Lynching” by Huda Orfali, deal with gay life in Acorn, Texas, a town of 21,001 people. “Again” introduces us to the characters and “Lynching” continues with those characters and addresses and an issue all too familiar in the gay and lesbian community, gay bashing. The twist of the storyline will cause you to think. It is another reminder of how selfless some human beings are.
The second section of the book is entitled “Beyond Acorn.” The stories in this section deal with the world outside of Acorn, Texas. There are insights into other ways of life that I found myself unaware of.
The first story in “Beyond Acorn” is “Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Bank, Montana” by Bill Wetzel. Life on an Indian Reservation is depicted in this well-written story. It addresses the high percentage of alcoholism and the general welfare attitude that seems to be so prevalent on them. This story of a group of men who are friends tells itself well.
“As I Lay Dying” by Huda Orfali is next. It is set in a boarding school and they are having trouble with a boy who has lost his parents. This is a story of kidnapping, child abuse, and the love given by the school’s psychiatrist, who reaches out to help the boy. This story keeps you wondering all the way to the end about what really happened.
“The Flamenco Painter” by Shawna Chandler deals with the strained relationship between a father and his alcoholic son at Christmas time. This piece focuses on traditions south of the border, about assisted suicide and the grief the son has carried. It challenges your beliefs and makes you think about the gray area within assisted suicide.
Next are “The 23rd of August” by Timothy Morris Taylor and “A Morning by the River” by Bill Wetzel. These are clearly the love stories of the book. For those of you who have experienced true love, these stories will help you relive those feelings that exist when you met that special person. For those of you who have not, you will yearn for that person even more after reading them.
“Dancing with Angels” by Huda Orfali is a very short story in the book. It shows one’s acceptance of knowing the end of life is near and being willing to cross over. What it does not have in quantity it truly makes up for in quality. This is a wonderfully written piece.
“The Gun” by Janice Chandler is a poignant story that many of us deal with today, that being, whether or not we should own a gun for our own safety. This is the murder mystery of the book, dealing with the relationship between a husband and wife. It is suspenseful and poetically ironic up to the very end.
The last section of the book, “Still Beginning,” contains one story by Duane Simolke entitled “The Last Few and the First Few.” Of all the stories, I liked this one the best. It deals with the issues of abandonment by a parent, being raised by a single mother, struggles in life and marriage, divorce, and dealing with the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The main character goes to New York City to help with the search and rescue at the World Trade Center. This story is moving beyond words. I found myself in tears many times throughout it, tears of sadness and tears of utter joy. This story is a beautiful ending to a great book.
The Acorn Gathering has something for everyone. The stories will provoke happiness, laughter, sadness and sometimes anger. Each is an extremely poignant view into the life of people who are all around us. The subject matter is so diversified that not only will you enjoy this book, it will open your eyes to the broader picture of how life exists for others around you.
As a person whose life has been greatly impacted by cancer, I applaud the writers of The Acorn Gathering for sharing their talents with us through these stories and for giving the proceeds to help find a cure for those with cancer. The American Cancer Society is a responsible choice to receive these funds. Your contribution by purchasing this book will be well spent. No better gift can be given to someone who is suffering from cancer, than hope. Your support of this book will do just that.
I'll tell you the number one greatest thing about 'The Acorn Gathering' right off the bat is that all the proceeds from the sales of this book go right towards cancer research. I think that is wonderful, and I encourage you to pick this book up today at your favorite bookstore!
All the stories you will read here are very unique. Some teach a lesson, some are sad and some make you think. These are all very talented writers, and I'm glad they got together to have a compilation of their stories in one book.
Some stories that really stood out to me were; 'Fat Diary,' 'Dancing With the Angels,' 'The Gun,' and 'The Seedling.'
I think these authors did a great job with this book.
Review by Len Rogers for StoneWall Society
A true "Story Cycle", this anthology comes together in a unique and most interesting manner. The cohesive nature of "The Acorn Gathering" is amazing considering the different authors and that they had not necessarily read "The Acorn Stories" first. Editor and co-author Duane Simolke is justifiably pleased with the diverse yet universal feel and messages shared throughout the book.
Although all proceeds do benefit cancer research, the book itself is not limited in subject. Stories of conflict, life, bravery, and community awareness all come together in an every day manner. You feel as though you know these characters. That you have been to places like these and the stories and tales are familiar, haunting and sometimes even painful. Do not mistake this as a piece about brave cancer patients and their experiences.
Although a worthy subject, the authors have offered a more common tapestry. One of the experiences with which most will strongly associate and or identify. Messages about things we meet in every day life. And as well the people, some good some not so good.
The writing styles are complimentary to each other and as well the work overall. There is flow, continuity, and strong growing interest. The themes and sometimes even characters relate and overlap. The tales and landscapes are believable and moving. An easy read, which draws its conclusion all too quickly, "The Acorn Gathering" has a strong, lasting effect and bright colorful style. A unique piece of art, dedicated to a great cause, and brought together by pure talent.
Learn more about "The Acorn Gathering; Writers Uniting Against Cancer" at the specially developed website.
Review by Ronald L. Donaghe, author of The Blind Season
A vision Duane Simolke had for this book was that writers would contribute stories freely and that all proceeds from the sale would go to the American Cancer Society. Perhaps what he did not count on is that this "gathering" of writers has also produced an artistic realization rarely witnessed in anthologies. The various and individual voices of each story teller in this collection lends cadence and lyrics like an orchestra to a whole larger than the sum of its parts, from Simolke's humorous and "biting" "Fat Diary" to Shawna Chandler's haunting and beautiful "Flamenco Painter."
Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, and even gay people delightfully form a cohesive voice in the fight against cancer and prejudice and hate. Also given voice, here, is how the destructive cancer of hate can ruin lives, and this message adds urgent notes in the orchestration of the whole. Read Bill Wetzel's two stories and you'll see how two disparate themes are unified by this collection; or read Huda Orfali's work and see how a continuing sub-theme is woven into this smart collection. In all, each story is a note or theme in a surprising whole.
Thursday, February 05, 2004
I'd be out beating the drum for everyone to buy this slim anthology even if every story in it were as boring as watching paint dry, as amateurish as finger-paintings by kindergartners, and/or as lacking in literary merit as a porno flick. Because, all author and editor royalties from THE ACORN GATHERING go to the American Cancer Society, and there are few of us whose lives haven't in someway been negatively touched by cancer, whether as regards ourselves, our family members, our friends, and/or our acquaintances.
That said, I'm exceedingly happy that the six contributors provide "anything but" boring, amateurish, and/or lacking in literary merit. Not all of the stories, by the way, have cancer as a thematic. If Duane Simolke's short story, "Finding Acorns In Winter" does tell the poignant tale of a woman surviving breast cancer, juxtaposed against an earlier American Indian woman facing death by starvation, the same author's hilarious "Fat Diary" is about a "big-boned" woman trying to find love and lose weight. Bill Wetzel's wonderful "Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Back, Montana" is about just that. Jan Chandler's "The Gun" drips irony as a tale examining the pros and cons of gun control.
Back to Simolke -- his "The Last Few And The First Few" poignantly post-9/11, via one man's personal reflections on his past -- no potential reader should pay too much attention to this book being promoted as the "sequel" to that author's short-story collection, THE ACORN STORIES, published in 1998. At least as far as assuming anyone need have read the former to enjoy the latter. No need to fear getting lost in this book's story lines, not privy to essential background, because each short story stands entirely on its own.
Which isn't to say you should pass up any opportunity to read Simolke's THE ACORN STORIES. (The "Acorn" of both books, by the way, referring to the same small town of Acorn, west Texas). Simolke's right-on descriptions of life in rural America, no matter where you're lucky enough to find them, will have you never driving through any bit of U.S. countryside ever again without looking at it as far less idyllically bucolic than you might once have imagined.
I picked up my copy of THE ACORN GATHERING at the same time I bought THE ACORN STORIES. I bought the latter, because someone whose literary judgment I respect told me that author Duane Simolke had written some genuinely good stories, all about the small town of Acorn, west Texas (which did, indeed, turn out to be the case).
My reasons behind purchasing THE ACORN GATHERING were two-fold. One, the book, although written by six authors (Simolke included), was being promoted as a follow-up anthology to THE ACORN STORIES. Two, and more importantly (to me anyway), the authors of THE ACORN GATHERING were donating all of their royalties from the book to the American Cancer Society. What better way to do my little part toward fighting cancer than by buying the book?! With the added advantage of getting more Simolke stories in the bargain. Not that I ended up in any hurry to read Simolke's contributions, or those of his altruistic fellow collaborators. I just couldn't get in the mood to subject myself to what I figured were probably depressing short stories with cancer themes. Big mistake on my part, and big mistake on anyone else's part. Because if THE ACORN GATHERING does include tales of people with cancer, it also contains ... Simolke's very funny 'Fat Diary' about an overweight librarian out to lose weight and find some lovin' ... Bill Wetzel's 'Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Back Montana' that is just as wonderfully entertaining as it sounds ... Jan Chandler's 'The Gun' that will have one and all pondering the pros and cons of gun control. All of those, and all of the rest, marvelous reading packaged to provide short story aficionados, like myself, not only with superb reading material but also with an excellent way to contribute to a genuinely great cause.