A Simplified Map of the Real World.

Author:Morris, Kristine
Position:Book review

Stevan Allred (author); A SIMPLIFIED MAP OF THE REAL WORLD; Forest Avenue Press (Fiction: Short Stories) 18.00 ISBN: 9780988265721

Byline: Kristine Morris

Allred's eloquent word portraits capture each character's own brand of quirkines.

A Simplified Map of the Real World is a near-flawless first book that delights with its colorful portrayals of loggers, farmers, families, and even the occasional stripper -- the salt-of-the-Earth folks who inhabit the small, rural town of Renata, Oregon. Beautifully crafted and marked by incisive wit, Allred's fifteen interlinked short stories reveal the rich, dark tangle of events and emotions that lie beneath everyday happenings in small-town America, unearthing the sibling rivalries simmering beneath the surface of apparent conviviality, the devastation of divorce, the deadening sadness that follows, and the way innocent young people awaken into first love.

At times humorous, at times deeply disturbing, these tales touch on the highlights of life in Renata -- the stolen tractor raced through town and catapulted off a cliff into the river, and the return of a military son to great accolades while his "different," artistic brother sees beneath the sham to an underlying poverty of spirit. But Allred's greater gift is his consummate skill at illuminating the necessary, mundane affairs of everyday life -- the way all farmers talk eventually turns to the weather -- and suffusing them with meaning.

Everyone in Renata, it seems, has a secret, but in such a small town, everyone's past is...

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