Since I enjoyed reading Edmund Persuader and Tomazina’s Folly so much, I was thrilled to find that the author also published this collection of short stories. For those who are familiar with my reading habits, short stories are one of my favorite genres to review and I am very excited to write about this particular collection.
These short stories, as the title Tales of Arcadia suggests, are set against a simple, pleasurable and pastoral backdrop. The setting especially resonates with me because it is redolent of rural New England where I currently reside. The characters in these tales are humble people attempting to navigate their lives and experience the very connections that make us human: love, friendship, grief, infidelity and longing.
Stuart Shotwell’s writing genius lies in his ability to create characters who experience a variety of human relationships. Within these stories are examples of husbands and wives who cannot live without each other and whose love and mutual respect makes them better people. But within these tales there is also a taste of marital life in which spouses are discontent, inattentive, withdrawn and selfish.
Stuart Shotwell reminds us that love is possible at any age and we always have the choice to extend our love to another person. When a situation seems utterly hopeless, it is at these trying times that we must reach deep within ourselves, learn a lesson and become stronger through our struggles. When something of ourselves is truly given from the heart, whether it be love, friendship or even a small gift, it is better than anything money can buy.
Even though I enjoyed the 10 short stories, the essays that begin and end the collection are my favorite pieces of writing. The greatest desire of many authors is to accumulate vast wealth, to be at the top of every best seller list and to gain the status of celebrity with their publications. Through practical lessons learned in his personal life that he applies to his work, the author recognizes that his writing, and the writings of any author, have the potential to affect a higher moral purpose and greater good both for his readers and for himself.
The author’s lesson about writing can even be applied to my little blog. I originally started this blog just for my own pleasure and to challenge myself to write better reviews and maybe share them with like-minded readers. Sometimes I am frustrated when I see other bloggers with vast numbers of followers who review massed produced, pop culture books. I have come to the conclusion that the most pleasurable and rewarding experiences that have resulted from my words are the connections I have made with readers and authors, even if it is only a select few. Tales of Arcadia has reminded me that it is these human connections which bring the most meaning to my activities and to my life.
I have read a few so-called “best seller” novels and none have affected me nearly as much as Edmund Persuader, Tomazina’s Folly and Tales of Arcadia. From the quality and depth of his writing it is evident that Stuart Shotwell’s novels and stories are a gift from the heart and are better than anything that money can buy.
A Few of My Favorite Quotes:
I usually do not quote from books that I review. In fact, I don’t believe there is a single review on this blog that contains a quotation from a book. But I am making an exception for these stories because so many of the beautifully written lines have lingered in my mind.
“If we know who we are and feel worthy in ourselves, we make the choices that are for the good of all.” -from “Saul’s Road”
“This choice was in his power: the choice to believe in love, to love someone else, to try again.” -from “Jack”
“Music, Clement thought, was as boundless as friendship itself–the more of yourself you gave to it, the more you found in yourself to give.” -from “Archon’s Gift”
“Open your basket, girl. What do you want to read?” “I haven’t read Homer yet.” “Then you haven’t read Greek.” -from “Who Holds Thee?”
“And yet all we really have, when the dogmas and delusions are stripped away is one another: in our fellow humans and in our fellow creatures on earth lies our only sure source of meaning.” -from “The Lord’s Well”