I enjoy non-fiction personal short stories and after several weeks of reading Young Adult Fiction, I was excited to see something a little more my speed in the Book Sparks Summer Reading Challenge line-up.
I'd never heard of Kris Radish, but after reading her collection, Gravel on the Side of the Road, I'm left feeling impressed with the life that she has been leading. It seems like Radish has done it all. She has worked as a war journalist, she survived a harrowing plane crash landing and an equally harrowing white water rafting journey, she has reported from murder scenes...she has a wealth of experiences make her intriguing.
However, the best stories in this collection come from quieter moments, like when she writes about helping her daughter shop for a prom dress or helping her children cope with their father, her ex-husband, imminent death. It's in these moments, that Radish's experiences become more universal. I became less amazed at all that she has experienced, as I could begin to see her experiences in my own and in people that I know. This is the magic in Radish's writing.
An interesting aspect of this collection is something that Radish addresses in her forward, the quality of her writing. The collection is not arranged chronologically by event or order in which she wrote it and the writing spans her entire career. From a craft perspective, I found this very interesting, as it is easy to see the growth in Radish's writing, in particular, I can see her "writers voice" emerging. It makes for an occasionally uneven read and had I not read the forward, I probably wouldn't have been so forgiving with this review. Some of the stories have a style that's fussy and overdone, which I felt must have been earlier pieces. The strongest pieces are the ones where Radish has a direct tone and cuts to the core of the story. When she was direct with her writing, she was often her most venerable, not hiding behind the flowery prose. I really connected with these stories.
This is a strong collection from an apt writer. Radish's stories are engaging and run the gamut of emotions. I felt exhausted just reading about all that she has accomplished in her life and if anything, I was left feeling motivated to raise the bar in my own life.