Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it, under the theory that there is a perfect beer to compliment every book.
I’m kicking off 2016 with a Book & Brews first — instead of featuring a novel, I’m thrilled to share a collection of short stories, flash fiction, and poems! Kim Drew Wright’s The Strangeness of Men is thirty-eight unique stories bound together under one lovely cover (really, look at that cover up there– so gorgeous). Obviously, it would be impossible to give you a synopsis of each and every one of those stories, but what I can tell you is that each one explores some element of humanity– from the mundane (think laundry, cooking, and cleaning bathrooms), to the quirky (a naked sleepwalker), to the unimaginable (life in a quarantined town where people die every day). And each piece leaves you thinking just a little differently about the world around you and the stories everyone carries with them.
Here are just a few things I loved about this book:
- The variety of narrators. Some of the stories are laced with dry wit as if they were told by your gregarious godmother after several glasses of wine. Others are quiet, as if you are leaning in close to hear your favorite aunt tell them. Since I primarily read novels with a single narrator, this was a really unique experience to have so many different voices all in one volume. I literally turned page after page curious about what journey I was going to go on next and with whom.
- The poetry. Yes, the actual poetry, but also the poetry of the language in the short stories and flash fiction. I feel like to write in short form it must be really important to really hone in on the very essence of the thing and make every word count. Kim Drew Wright does masterfully. I’m a little bit (a lot) in awe of this.
- How perfect it was for evening reading. I love to read before bed. I’m also trying really hard to be conscious of how much sleep I get. I’ll be honest, sometimes evenings, right before bed aren’t the best time for me to pick up a novel, because if I’m in the middle of some intense part, I’m going to keep reading until there’s at least a little resolution for the character. More often than not, I pick up non-fiction in the evenings– but this book was an awesome way to spend a few minutes with fiction (my true love), and be able to “wrap-up” an entire character’s narrative in just a few minutes.
I’m pairing this book with Isley Brewing Company’s Choosy Mother, which is a Peanut Butter Oatmeal Porter. There are several reasons why it is a perfect beer for this book. First, the idea of adding peanut butter to a beer seems unexpected and unconventional. Quirky. Similarly, Kim Drew Wright’s stories are all those things. She takes ordinary moments (the peanut butter, if you will) and adds a twist to make you experience them in a different way.
A number of the stories and poems in the collection touch in themes of motherhood or issues women face, which makes the name of the beer, Choosy Mother, and all the implications laden in that old ad slogan seem like a good fit. Finally, this is a local brewed-in-my-town beer, and Kim is a local, lives-in-my-town author, so it seemed fitting to stay local for this beer. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy my city?
*For those of you not local to Richmond, VA– you should visit and get some beer! But in the meantime, here are a couple other Peanut Butter beer options: Terrapin’s Liquid Bliss and DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus.