Lulu, $15.95, ISBN 1-4116-5503-6
Inspirational Nonfiction, 2005
Stories of Strength was the brainchild of the regular posters at the Absolute Write forum back in late 2005 in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina devastation in USA. All proceeds from the sales of this anthology will go to disaster relief bodies like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, so purchasing this book is a pretty nice thing to do even if you have no intention of reading it.
I am not sure how to review this anthology since it contains 122 very short contributions from over 100 authors, some of which are big names like Orson Scott Card, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Wil Wheaton. Okay, the last is more of a child actor who has gone on to become an adorable online presence while writing books that I understand are more cheerful than Carrie Fisher’s, but still, he’s a pretty cool guy. There are also some names here that you may recognize – Sharon Cullars, Alyson Mead, and Cynthia Appel, for example.
The anthology is divided in various categories. Strength of Spirit is where we have stories of finding in one’s self zen, God, hope, healing, the usual. Physical Strength is all about running marathons or pulling off Chariots of Fire-style feats of glory for sick people and other worthy causes like gospel, glory, and gold. Of course, the gold part is for sick kiddies and charities. The stories in Strength of Faith is a little more deity-centric compared to the stories in Strength of Spirit, but they are pretty much similar in terms of theme. Then there is Role Models of Strength where the authors write stories about other people besides themselves and God. Strength of Community is all about We Make a Difference Together stories. Borrowing Strength is, I suspect, a category that is created for stories that don’t fall in any other categories because it is an odd mishmash of imaginary friends, people who help the authors, and miscellaneous other anecdotes. Strength of Love is about love overcoming everything, even Celine Dion anthems. The Strength to Start Over is where one can find all the Hallmark stories of divorce, disease, and “I will be strong!” trumpet calls. And finally, Strength in Fiction is for inspirational tales of fiction. Of, if you want to really cynical, tales from authors who don’t have the heart to pass their contributions off as something that really happened to them once upon a time that made them a better person today, heh.
The stories here are mostly in the form of prose, although there are a considerable number of works of poetry as well. On the whole, the stories are of the Hallmark dramatic moments or a Reader’s Digest best of compilation variety. Disease, death, divorce, and aging are all celebrated to dramatic sweeps of Bette Midler’s Wind beneath My Wings or Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. Fortunately, some stories are more than mere muzak. Charmain Christie’s Wet and Naked manages to be both heartrending and hilarious as she describes how she and her mother try to help an autoimmune-disease stricken sister get out of a bath tub. I also find Robin Lee Hatcher’s The Huckleberry Patch very poignant without being too melodramatic, sappy, or preachy.
Stories of Strength is a most readable anthology, although personally I feel there are about equal numbers of overly-sentimental duds or pretentious self-congratulatory wastes-of-time as there are genuinely poignant tales that can break hearts. But ultimately, it’s all about the cause and therefore, I have no genuine objections to the stories in here. This one is best read in small doses at a time for best effect.
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