A Simplified Map of the Real World: The Renata Stories

(Author) (Illustrator)

Product Details

$18.00  $16.74
Forest Avenue Press
Publish Date
5.98 X 9.02 X 0.63 inches | 0.87 pounds

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About the Author

Author Stevan Allred lives and writes in a house in the woods halfway between Fisher's Mill and Viola, in rural Clackamas County, outside of Portland, Oregon. He is the editor of Dixon Ticonderoga, a zine that explores the intimate relationship between divorce and pencils. He teaches writing at the Pinewood Table.

Illustrator Laurie Paus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Washington. Over the years she has taken drawing and painting classes from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, and recently, she has been studying sculpture at The Gage Academy of Art. She lives on the shores of Lake Union and works as a bookseller at The Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.


"The characters populating these stories have been enduring time and weather and hardship for a long time. People and forces they can't control cut them down. Wives leave them. Friends betray them. Fathers refuse to understand them. But these people have a refreshing, ecological knowledge that there is always something to be done to make your own world complete again, at least for a minute. Even if it is eating a big bowl of your neighbor's Rocky Road and finding a good but dumb-as-hell movie on the man's TV to take your mind off the crap hand you've been dealt."
- Maria Anderson, Necessary Fiction

"In modest homes, over dinners, through divorces and the decades, we meet brothers, neighbors, daughters, soldiers, old friends and longtime rivals. From one story to another, through the years, these every day people may be villains and then victims, painted with the same brush but viewed from different angles, in different light."
- Brian Juenemann, The Register-Guard

"... the most skillfully-woven collection of linked short stories I've read to date."
- Stefanie Freele, Late Night Library

"Stevan Allred's stories strike to the very heart--the pathos, the humor, the hope--of the American frontier. He is OUT there. Raymond Carver would love this book."
- Robin Cody, author of Ricochet River

"Acts of neighborly kindness rub elbows with acts of raw prejudice. A rejected son learns complicated grief after the death of his father. The stunt of two brothers, an unexpected variation on boys will be boys, brings laughter in one story, then recurs in a tragic later story in a moment of magical realism. Allred offers a dazzling variation in storyteller voices, each revealing how often we hide our desires from ourselves and each other."
- Helen Sinoradzki, naming it a #1 book of 2013 in the Powell's Top 5s lists

"What a joy it is when an author's imagination is on par with his writing chops. The richly nuanced town of Renata, Oregon, becomes palpably real in A Simplified Map of the Real World, Stevan Allred's charming tapestry of life, death, love, heartache and every other human experience captured and fully realized in a series of interconnected short stories. Each snapshot of present and past life in the fictional northwestern logging town adds new layers to its cast and their complex histories with each other, quietly emphasizing the strange fact that no matter how well or how long we think know someone, we'll never truly know what inner mysteries (and occasional deluded justifications) propel them along the paths they choose."
- Madeleine Maccar, Chicago's Center for Literature & Photography

"Death and high jinks, love and rage--the ordinary doings of a small town are not so simple. Stevan Allred has clear vision and he's a loving and joyful teller of tales. In his hands, these voices are angry, foolish, wise, heartbroken, and true."
- Joanna Rose, author of Little Miss Strange

"Much like being ambushed by a sneaker wave, I simply surrendered to the futile and claustrophobic circumstances Allred forces the community of Renata to endure in this linked collection. As human beings we all know there are two sides--or multiple ones--to every story, and as readers, it's pure indulgence to experience Allred's deft ability to shift between various points of view to give us a 360-degree perspective of the intertwining lives of his characters as they meet head-on their spectrum of woes, each more heartbreaking than the last."
- Polly Dugan, author of So Much a Part of You

"Allred writes wonderfully of loneliness, despair, and desire. The history and characters contained within the town of Renata, Oregon make this one of the most connected collection of short stories I've ever read."
- Sara Habein, Glorified Love Letters

"In A Simplified Map of the Real World, Stevan Allred creates one of the unforgettable locales of modern fiction--Renata, Oregon, a small town that takes us to the largest places in the heart. The people of Renata struggle with broken dams and families, with dangerous curves in roads and marriages, and with dreams that are both reckless and brave. These are stories as beautiful and honest as the landscape Allred loves. Gorgeously written, A Simplified Map of the Real World will make you wonder why you haven't been reading Stevan Allred all your life."
- Scott Sparling, author of Wire to Wire

"I don't know how he works his magic-probably naked at the typewriter or some other trick to get so much humanity and humility on the page-but Stevan has built a world full of beautiful and messy people living beautiful and messy lives. These stories are great on their own, and even stronger together. You'll feel like you know these people and this place better than you know your own people and place. You should be ashamed of yourself for not having read this book yet!"
- Yuvi Zalkow, author of A Brilliant Novel in the Works

"For years I've been teaching Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty in my Literature of the South class and didn't think there was a short story writer who held up next to these two. Well, finishing A Simplified Map, I put Stevan Allred with them."
- Michael Strelow, author of Henry: A Novel of Beer and Love in the West

"Beautifully crafted and marked by incisive wit, Allred's fifteen interlinked short stories reveal the rich, dark tangle of events and emotions that lie beneath everyday happenings in small-town America, unearthing the sibling rivalries simmering beneath the surface of apparent conviviality, the devastation of divorce, the deadening sadness that follows, and the way innocent young people awaken into first love. At times humorous, at times deeply disturbing, these tales touch on the highlights of life in Renata--the stolen tractor raced through town and catapulted off a cliff into the river, and the return of a military son to great accolades while his 'different, ' artistic brother sees beneath the sham to an underlying poverty of spirit. But Allred's greater gift is his consummate skill at illuminating the necessary, mundane affairs of everyday life--the way all farmers talk eventually turns to the weather--and suffusing them with meaning."
- Kristine Morris, ForeWord Reviews

"The Northwest town of Renata, the families, the connections between all these characters, their idiosyncrasies and quirks, their tribulations and moments of light, Stevan Allred makes it all very real. He intrigues from the first words and won't let us put down each story until we know exactly how it's to turn out."
- Jon Bell, author of On Mount Hood

"Stevan Allred masterfully writes from 15 different points of view, giving each narrator a very distinct voice appropriate for the character. It's hard to believe the author who wrote from the hilarious viewpoint of a crotchety old fart is the same person who wrote so poignantly from the perspective of a dying Native American woman. When he tells the stories of two neighbors or of a father and son or a nephew and an uncle, he doesn't retell the same story twice, once for each view. Instead, Allred gives us new stories with some of the same people, told by unique voices. He does it brilliantly, proving that a writer need not be pigeonholed into a single writing style."
- Edee Lemonier, The Reading and Writing Cafe Blog

"Divorce seems to be one of the major themes, as many of the characters are struggling through it or have some experience with it. It was nice to read about this from both male and female points of view, and I think Allred writes a woman's voice and perspective authentically."
- Emily J, The Bookshelf of Emily J

"Anchored in the landscape of Renata, Allred's characters seem straightforward in their "small-town" style. But as each story unfolds, more is revealed: in the nightstand of a pompous neighbor, in the complexity of Uncle Lenny, through conversations between fathers and sons and the resurgence of old high school relations."
- Christi Craig, Writing Under Pressure