Edited by Larry Smith, creator of Smith Magazine, and published by Harper Perennial, this collection of short stories contains everything from heart-warming tales of familial struggle and reconciliation, to lightbulb moments of self-revelation.
The contributing authors include the likes of Melissa Ethridge, Gregory Maguire, Elizabeth Gilbert, Dave Eggers and James Franco. I would argue, however, that some of the best stories were submitted by lesser-known artists (unless of course you’re an NPR junkie like myself, then some names may resonate with you).
The brevity of each story makes this book the perfect companion for short flights, lunch breaks or before-bedtime reading. I was often moved by the intimate details with which the contributing writers were willingly sharing with their readers. Here are a few of my favorite stories:
I was especially pleased with… Steve Almond’s “John Updike Sent Me a Fan Letter (Once),” in which Almond explores the power and ultimate responsibility writers must share with up-and-coming wordsmiths.
I was moved by… Christoph Marshall’s “Why I Adopted My Son,” and Eddie Comacho’s “Why I Adopted My Dad,” in which the two discuss their difficulties in finding a family and the ultimate reasons why they knew they were meant to be father and son.
I was intrigued with… “Meeting Allen Ginsberg,” by Steve Silberman, in which Silberman describes his chance encounter with the beat poet and how their relationship shaped his profession.
I cried at a little at… Andrew D. Scrimgeor’s “The Silver Harmonica,” in which he tells the intimate story of how his mother’s Alzheimer’s affected his family, and how one small gift can make a world of difference.
While I would argue (and this may be unfair, since I received an uncorrected proof) that the placement of some stories often interrupted the over-all flow of the book, I do believe this is an entertaining and thought-provoking collection.
Perhaps the smartest choice — whether it was the editor’s or publisher’s — was to include a brief biography for each of the contributing writers at the end of the collection. I was intrigued enough to learn a bit about each author following their memoir. I would recommend this book and hope it leads you to consider your own “moment,” and if you feel so compelled, check out the “Six Word Memoir” submission at www.smithmag.net.
Sarah Aylward received a copy of this book from the publisher, Harper Perennial.