The newly-released One Surviving Story (204 pages) might prove to be a real aid for the survival of one’s state of mind for these days of quarantine and lockdown. Based on the editor’s “simple” question, “If you knew only one of you stories would survive you, which would you choose?” Howard Firkin has selected 28 stories that represent a cross-section of the world.
While many of its contributors reside “down under” in the vicinity of Australia, there are writers from Africa, Europe, and the States whose works are included in these pages with the pieces ranging from flash fiction or longer creative non-fiction works.
The collection even includes a slyly humorous piece from Sofia Chapman, who recalls “An Ex in the Provence” in a multi-genre piece that mixes prose, poetry, and play in her work.
I suppose for full disclosure, I have to admit that I have a piece of my own in here, which initially made me quite grateful and proud—especially given that Firkin received over 150 submissions. After reading it, however, I feel like the guy who’s crashed an exclusive party and will soon be discovered and summarily booted out.
That’s how good the quality of the work contained in these pages proves to be.
The book opens with “Good People” by Tim Hawkins, a recollection of working in Alaska with a very mixed bag of personalities on a work site “with 22 hours of sunlight,” an environment that can fray most anyone’s nerves.
Readers also visit post-war Europe in “Dispatch Rider,” as Peter Newell delivers a gut punch form the recently war-torn continent. His narrator walks along streets where “bright green spring grass had grown up where three months ago there had only been frozen earth and gutters of snow. This grass was new and fresh, it was this year’s grass. It hadn’t lived through the war and it knew nothing of the war. It was innocent.” This environment is very much like, the protagonist later learns, he himself.
Meanwhile, Deline Skinner puts her main character through his own guantlet in “The Farmer’s Task.”
Still, there is the muted optimism Sara Abend-Sims gives us “First Steps” while a retired and aging school teacher is regenerated by learning to look “Through a Child’s Eyes” written by Jo Mularczyk. That youthful innocence and generosity also shines through when a vacationing Jim Ross benefits from “Dumpster Diving in Paradise.”
The writing contained in the pages of Firkin’s collection—along with its variations of length, theme, and type—offers any readers of One Surviving Story a release valve that merits return trips.