Sunday, October 18, 2020

Book Review: People Like Frank and other stories from the edge of normal by Jenn Ashton

The Short, Short Story with Jenn Ashton (a writers' workshop)

One of the fun writing activities Jenn offers is to encourage writing a 6-word memoir. Here's mine...

Reading disability leads to writing passion.

People Like Frank, Jenn Ashton's short story collection is peopled with diverse characters from disabled to immigrants to transients to... These characters speak loudly and clearly building bridges of understanding. I like how some of these stories are linked. This pairing invites a closer look, encourages a deeper understanding, or offers an opposing view. 

Buy this book

Published by Tidewater Press

Published in 2020

I received my copy from the publisher.

Stories range in length from 3 to 12 pages. The collection is dyslexic-friendly. It's a perfect book to take with you on your morning commute. Some stories are heart-warm. Others are emotionally challenging. 


Betty dies while knitting. All of her belongings--including her knitting--are donated to Goodwill. Francine works at Goodwill. What Betty was knitting and where it belongs becomes Francine's mystery.

2)The Bag and I

The narrator puts a recyclable frozen asparagus package in the recycle bin, but the garbage man tosses it out. Why? The narrator devotes herself to solving this mystery.

3)Remembering Vincent Price

Chrissy Evers a thirty-something university interim instructor attempts to heal from haunting childhood trauma.

4)The Instruction of Thomas Epperman

Inspired by her Ph.D. thesis, Isobel Emerson develops a new method of communication.

5)Professor Angel

Acting with understanding and compassion, Alice fills roles that others may have overlooked or neglected. 

This story is packed with information and I would have liked to see it fleshed out so I could have witnessed Alice's interactions. But maybe there's a reason she isn't given a voice.


A happily married woman looks forward to the day when her husband's dystonia is under control.


Recovering from a stroke, Allison is relearning many of the tasks we take for granted--like using the toilet.


Anne is wife and primary caregiver to the narrator who has dementia.

9)People Like Frank

Frank has dementia and his wife is noticing how it's changing him.


Fleeing a dangerous life, Lina reinvents herself.


We see the world through Blake Cheever's eyes and we slowly begin to realize why he is where he is and why he acts the way he does.

The story left me yearning for a happy life for Blake. It's a story that I'm sure will remain with me. 

12)Good Planning

Inside the mind of someone who is experiencing a psychotic break. 

13)Virginia, Ten

At an early age, the narrator must raise her little brother Jimmy because her mother has bipolar disorder. 


The oldest in a family that's 'good at breeding' (p. 127), Jess longs to escape her boring rural Canadian home. 

15)All-Nation Soup

The narrator reminisces about Sundays spent at Granny's with her ten cousins.

'The cold world outside stopped and we could breathe at Granny's table and just be ourselves.' (p. 136)

Such a loving tribute to a time, to family, to a woman--to Granny.

16)The Weatherman

A Japanese-Canadian couple lives on a remote island in one of the last working lighthouses.

Far from feeling bored or isolated, Tekki, the narrator, finds intellectual challenges, beauty, and love.  

17) Mea Culpa

'I'm writing because I want to tell you about the last stupid thing I'll ever do.' (p. 153)--become obsessed with Boris the electrician. 

18)Material Remains

Set in Scotland, Sarah is in search of a life she can squeeze herself into. She keeps searching until she finds something that can be truly hers. 

19)Hollow Bones

The narrator and her daughter travel in search of a home, in search of stillness.

20)Mona Lisa

Lessons learned by a 57-year-old traveler.

'I marvel at how I tried all my life to please so many people, when each person's experience of me was so different.' (p. 184)

Mark your calendar...

People Like Frank will be launched at the Whistler Writers Festival (October 17) and Massy Books (October 27) Here's a Facebook link to attend Massy Books virtual book launch 

 Virtual Reading...

Wednesday, October 21

Ownership (horror)

Do you own your house or does it own you?

Next Sunday...

Book Review:  The Guardians by Andrew Pyper

The Guardians is a suspenseful haunted house story--a perfect read on a chilly Halloween night.

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photo by ldyck

Sharing my author journey...

Enter a short story writing contest
Deadline October 31

WIP Progress Report:  4,510/40,000
Bear in mind that this is the first draft, words can be removed just as easily as they are added--at this point. 
Miles to go--having tons of fun and...

An interesting side-effect of writing novels--of starting with a stack of paper--or a blank screen--and adding lots and lots of words...
Now I look at yardwork and housework and think, it's a big job, but I can do it. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that few jobs overwhelm me. I'm not as easily intimidated. Now I look at life with a can-do attitude. (I usually look at life this way--not always, I'm no saint.) 

"How do you eat an elephant?" This vegetarian asks.

All together now, "One bite at a time."

Read this interesting article on how to set goals by Denise Fournier, Ph. D. The Only Way to Eat an Elephant