For the past week, I’ve mostly neglected blogs as I’ve spent my time sailing. The weather has turned cooler but there have been some days with great wind and others when I sat relaxed and waited for the air to begin to move. Either way, it’s been great and as the sailing season is short up here, I’m going to make the most of it. However, I did want to get this review down before I forget some of the details. Enjoy!
Jeff Kunkel, Blessed Ewe: More Stories for All Seasons (Shorewood, WI: Face to Face Books, 2000), 181
These ten short stories are all set in the Midwest and along the Great Lakes at various times over the past century and a half. The common thread running through the yarns is change and transitions that forces those within the story to accept a new reality. In the opening story, “Stone Fences,” a daughter of Lutheran farmer decides to marry a Catholic. The father must decide whether or not he will support his daughter’s decision. In “Buck Haven,” a group of men who have hunted together for decades and have worried when there are no sons willing to join them are surprised by the willingness of a daughter-in-law. There is the tale of a young woman going to work in the steel mills during the Second World War, as her family frets over their Russian homeland as Hitler’s tanks advance. My favorite story, “Come About!” is an account of a terrible storm on Lake Michigan at the end of the shipping season 1880. Kunkel tells the story of one ship’s struggle to survive a blow that sunk dozens of ships. The title story, “Bless Ewe” is heart-wrenching and humorous story of a young pastor celebrating his first Christmas at a new church is surprised (as with the congregation and the farmer whose sheep he borrowed) when a four-legged member of the Nativity cast gives birth during the Christmas Eve service.
The author is able to draw us into the story using very ordinary events and with an attention to details that make the stories seem even more real. Kunkel’s writing is crisp, filled with subtle humor, and a pleasure to read. I must admit that I was surprised as I picked up this book with apprehension. The title seemed cheesy, but from the first story, I was drawn into the book and enjoyed devouring the tales within the collection.
I met the author at a recent conference I attended at Lake Tahoe and, as a disclaimer, was given a copy of this book. However, I was not asked to review the book. Kunkel, a United Methodist minister, has one additional book of short stories, several children’s books and an adventure/historical book set in Alaska. For those of you who may be baseball fans, this Jeff Kunkel is not a backup catcher for the Detroit Tigers.