“The Acorn Stories” by Duane Simolke— Living in a Small Town

Simolke, Duane. “The Acorn Stories”, iUniverse, 2003.

 Living in a Small Town

 Amos Lassen

 Acorn, Texas—population 21. 001 is the setting for Duane Simolke’s wonderful “The Acorn Stories”. The town of Acorn is full of stories and if you have lived in a small town you know exactly what I mean. Each of Simolke’s stories lets us look into the lives of some of the most interesting characters I have ever read about. As you read each story, you seem to make new friends and when I closed the book I felt as if I actually knew many in the town. Just as the stories are all separate, they eventually tie together. There is just the right amount of detail to let the reader feel he knows the people of Acorn.

       Even more interesting is that Simolke wrote this book in a very difficult style of writing—the stream of consciousness. This allows the reader to feel as if he is one of the characters and as the stories come together, we get a picture of Acorn, Texas in quite a unique way. The 16 stories in the book, although separate, are all related and this is not an easy way to write. As the characters merge, the imaginary (at least I think it is imaginary0 town seems to be very real.

       The residents of Acorn are very real people—or so they seemed to me as I met them. And as the stores come together the town of Acorn is laid bare reminding me of what is left of a turkey after Thanksgiving dinner. As we meet the townsfolk, we dig below the outside appearance and go deep into the characters. The characters are quite a menagerie of folk all of whom have challenges and problem (just like we all do). It is the personalities and actions of the members of Acorn that make the stories live. In fact, I am not really sure that this is a collection of short stories because of the interactions between the stories and when they all come together it is like reading a novel.

       Acorn is located in west Texas and there, under the Texas sun and the majestic oak trees (so unlike Texas) is a mixture of Hispanics and Anglos as well as a few Afro-Americans. Some were born in Acorn and some are hiding in Acorn. Newlyweds Becky and Kyle are very much in love and they are starting a life together. We meet the gay art dealer and gallery owner who is being blackmailed by the “ex-gay” mayor of the town. There is also a famous writer hiding in Acorn because he stages his own fake suicide. There is the high school teacher who favors sports over academics and the young kid who is keeping a secret, a young man looking for a sugar momma to pay his rent, a widow ad her cat, Regina, an overbearing sister, a widow, Mae, who remembers how life was once and so on.

       I must say that I loved this book and have reread several of the stories. It is a rare treat and one that will have you laughing, crying, commiserating and identifying.  I have not had this much fun in a long time.