Author Hugh Aaron’s collection of short stories certainly lives up to its name: The included works were drafted over a sixty-six-year time span, the earliest dating back to when he was serving as a Seabee in the South Pacific during World War II. The stories vary in length from just a couple of pages to more than fifty. Told from the perspective of a child, a soldier, a businessman, a husband, each story has a unique voice, perspective and message for Aaron’s readers.
Aaron’s writing style is sparse. He wastes no time on lush or flowery descriptive prose. Rather, he provides only enough information to set the stage and then launches into the action. His writing is straight-forward, plain-spoken, but his themes are frequently poignant, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes humorous, but always thought-provoking.
Among the best in the collection is The Mentor, about a businessman who failed to listen to his own instincts and common sense when he agreed to give the ne’er-do-well son of his wife’s cousin a chance at a job. Although he made clear that there would be no special accommodations because of their familial connection, the young man nonetheless felt a sense of entitlement and privilege, and when he did not get his way, involved his father in his professional dealings. The moral of the story is clear: Listen to your instincts and never hire relatives. In He Who Would Be King of the Mountain, Aaron explores power, control, pride, and to what ends one individual will go in the name of success. The result is a hauntingly frank account of a partnership power struggle. Aaron explores the bounds of friendship in A Top-Notch Man and what constitutes a home in the story simply titled Home.
Each story, written at a different period of my life, was inspired by what issues were most on my mind at the time. In a sense, the totality of the collection is a disguised autobiography.~ Author Hugh Aaron
Some stories are merely vignettes, glimpses into the lives of people we have never met but with whom we can readily identify through our common experiences and emotions. The Ringing Telephone, The Long, Long Sleep, and God Took My Dog Away report events that changed the lives of their characters, evoking memories of similar events in the lives of Aaron’s readers. Children Should Be Neither Seen Nor Heard is a sweet tale of a man who came to visit and was transformed by the innocence of one little girl named Ruthie. In The Life of George Amen, the protagonist decides not to go to work in order to feel free from his responsibilities and obligations. He doesn’t run away from his life. On the contrary, he shows up at home, much to his wife’s surprise, mid-morning. He simply wants one day during which he can call the shots instead of being told what to do by his boss. His understanding wife neither nags nor scolds. Instead, she indulges him so that he can resume his work life the next morning refreshed and invigorated.
Each story has a message for the reader, a lesson to be learned from Aaron’s own life experiences and keen insight into human nature and foibles. Aaron possesses the rare gift of being able to present a meaningful collection of morality tales without ever delving into preaching or pontificating, in a manner reminiscent of the late Paul Harvey. Stories from a Lifetime is a delightful compilation that would make an excellent selection for a book club because many of the stories lend themselves to reflection and discussion.
I read Stories from a Lifetime in conjunction with the 2011 Read ‘n’ Review and Outdo Yourself Reading Challenges.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Stories from a Lifetime free of charge from the author in conjunction with the Pump Up Your Book review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Enter to Win a Copy of Stories from a Lifetime
Author Hugh Aaron has generously provided one copy of Stories From a Lifetime to be given to a lucky reader, selected at random.
To enter, simply post a comment! Be sure to include your email address (for notification and delivery purposes). The book can only be shipped to a United States or Canadian address (no P.O. box).
The comment posted by Stephanie was selected at random and a copy of Stories from a Lifetime is being sent to Stephanie!