Filling Up In Cumby and Other Stories by Jim Steinberg ~ Short Story Collection Book Review

Book Description: 

Filling Up In Cumby is a collection of stories about matters of the heart: the bonds and trials of lovers and friends, fathers and sons, even strangers in the midst of chance encounters. Carefully crafted and set in vividly described places, the stories reveal the interiors of everyday people working through dilemmas readers will recognize as much like their own. The author describes the situations with nuance and realism through the eyes of his main characters, revealing their struggles with the gentle touch of compassion, their lessons and reasonable triumphs with scrupulous honesty. The reader is welcomed into richly detailed evocations of very personal situations.

In the title story, when a father's ex-wife appears at an inappropriate time, he struggles to protect their son from his difficulty keeping a healthy distance from the woman who still fascinates him. In "That Girl," a mother cooking dinner for her live-in boyfriend must persuade him to soften his harsh approach to her pregnant fifteen-year-old daughter. In "Uncle Eno's Bad Day," a gas station attendant with more wits than meets the eye delivers an important lesson about what matters and what does not to a man worried about being late for a meeting. In "Highway 47," a man stuck in a diner by a snowstorm, hoping for the fulfillment of a long-held fantasy that he has never thought possible or wise, finds something of much greater importance than a night with a lovely woman. He moves on, unsure of what happened, what did not, and what he will do when he gets home. In "An Apple Totem," a father preparing to take his ten-year-old son to live with his ex-wife in a distant town receives an unusual gift to commemorate their seven years together. Then it is time for the journey and the parting. In "Moschovitz And Pasternak," a man standing in line in a polling place gazes at an older man with a most pleasant countenance. Then he has a few moments of deep introspection and a brief encounter of unusual depth and satisfaction. "In The Middle" presents the reader with a man asked to mediate between his housemate, a woman with a young child, and the visiting father of her child. In a most difficult situation, the narrative character must struggle against his conflicting feelings and his biases in order to do the right thing for everyone. "The Blue Note" describes in extraordinary detail a couple's effort to begin repairing their marriage broken by an up-close infidelity. Like the title story, it is filled with a finely rendered backstory. Last, in a single page, Brotherhood In Beijing" describes a touching moment between strangers who cannot speak the same language.

These are simple stories. Each is a fresh, clear, moving depiction of people in emotional situations. They are meant to be savored one at a time.

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About the Author: 
Jim Steinberg has been a lawyer, blacksmith, middle school teacher of English and Social Studies, college teacher of Criminal Justice, hippie, and director of basic law enforcement training at a community college. He now divides most of his time between his loved work as a mediator (thirteen years in a small private practice in his home and in tribal courts in Northern California) and his greatest love of the last two decades, writing fiction. He has published one novel, "Boundaries," and two short story collections: "Filling Up In Cumby And Other Stories," and "Last Night At The Vista Cafe, Stories." His current project is a second novel - "The Third Floor," a story about twins, a brother and a sister.

Jim's stories have appeared in Clapboard House, The Greensboro Review, The New Renaissance, Sensations Magazine, Cities and Roads, The Lone Wolf Review, The Bishop’s House Review, Voices From Home - A North Carolina Prose Anthology, and Best Of Clapboard House. He writes his stories to scratch the itches that rise up from within him, to answer the impulses that ask him to visit and lay them in greater repose. When these impulses arise, he finds himself at the beginnings of trails he knows he will follow with minimal planning and no synopsis, plot, timeline, or character description. He jumps right in and finds the stories, making each a discovery for him, the first reader.

Jim is a Fellow of the Redwood Writing Project of Humboldt State University and a founding member of the Lost Coast Writers' Retreat, a week-long gathering on the Mattole River on the remote Northcoast of California. For the last fourteen years he has described this time in a close knit writers' community as his best week of every year. He believes that writing stories is the best way he can get his hands around experience. He believes that the world would be a better place if everyone wrote stories because they all have them, and they are all worth passing on.

You can talk with Jim about writing stories on his blog: "Follow Your Nose Fiction, A Blog About Writing By A Guy Who Writes."

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This is a great short story collection of love, lost love, life lessons/events and a lot soul searching. I have really enjoy reading short stories lately as they are great to read when you don't have a lot of time to devote to reading. All the characters in these stories are very complex and well developed. They will make you really think and will stay with you long after you are done reading their story.

Some of my favourite stories in this collection are Highway 47, about a man on his way home to his wife. He is stranded at a diner in a snow storm and spends the night with the owner (single mother). He has been thinking about straying on his wife and here is the opportunity but does he actually go through with it? This story doesn't go as you would think.

Another one I enjoyed was In The Middle, about a gentlemen who rents out a room to a single mother and her daughter. He steps into the role of dad helping her with her daughter, they don't really cross that friend line but they are standing on it swaying back and forth. The mother has her ex (daugther's father) come for a visit, he wants to see what he can do but in the end will he step up to be a father and a lover or not?

That Girl is another one I enjoyed. At first I wasn't too sure about it, but in the end it is about a fathers love and protection for his daughter and granddaughter, a mothers love for her only child and what she will give up to help her daughter out. The mother is divorced and their teenage daughter becomes pregnant while living at her fathers.

If you are trying to add more reading into your life short stories are a great way to do it. These are all pretty quick reads. You can easily pick up this book and put it down when you need to without losing your place in the storyline. This collection would fall into literary fiction, life lessons, relationships old and new. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I look forward to reading Mr. Steinberg's other stories.

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~*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. *~ 


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