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A Simplified Map of the Real World
By Stevan Allred
Forest Avenue Press
Reviewed by Madeleine Maccar
What a joy it is when an author's imagination is on par with his writing chops. The richly nuanced town of Renata, OR, becomes palpably real in A Simplified Map of the Real World, Stevan Allred's charming tapestry of life, death, love, heartache and every other human experience captured and fully realized in a series of interconnected short stories. Each snapshot of present and past life in the fictional northwestern logging town adds new layers to its cast and their complex histories with each other, quietly emphasizing the strange fact that no matter how well or how long we think know someone, we'll never truly know what inner mysteries (and occasional deluded justifications) propel them along the paths they choose. Allred writes each character with the kind of empathetic--though not always approving--compassion that makes it tolerable to be inside even the most morally reprehensible characters' heads for a chapter. From a young man eager to embrace life beyond his family's austere religion to the adult bully whose artsy son is a constant disappointment, to scorned wives and quiet ghosts, Renata's citizens guard their secrets and open their hearts in equal measures, each adding their own voice to a richly orchestrated symphony of universal truths shaped by individual experience.
Out of 10: 9.2