Book review of Morris bye Chris Kuell

Book review of Morris by Chris Kuell

Morris is a collection of 15 short stories connected by threads of humanity. Chris Kuell adeptly shifts between generations and characters to illustrate the human desire to find love and be loved. From the first paragraph, we know we are in the hands of a wordsmith. His attention to detail is present throughout, as we see right from the beginning. Describing the creation of a guitar as, “Whittling off smaller and smaller fingernail-sized slivers, followed by smoothing with various grits of sandpaper, until it became the neck of a guitar.” And again, we find elegant prose, like describing the guitar, “Sleek and strong and beautiful as a ballerina’s calf.” This is a powerful collection of stories, transformative through Kuell’s mastery of language. Attention to detail, specific syntax, combining elegance with grit, this collection will take you on a beautiful journey.

Several characters flounder through life in these stories. Most don’t cross paths, a few do. Each is connected by determination though. Always in the background, looming like an angel, is Morris, a hand-crafted guitar. It passes from character-to-character; sometimes an active part of a story, other times, a backdrop. But music is ever-present in this collection. Music is powerful, magical, restorative, and music is a connective tissue throughout these pages. As Morris is ever-present, so is music. It plays a comforting role, bringing solace and understanding and connection.

In the beginning, Kuell writes, “A bump, less than half the size of a grain of sand, but a flaw. Somehow, there are always flaws. If not in the wood, then in the lacquer, or the clear coat, or a nickresulting from rough handling, or the first time somebody drops it. Sometimes, your best is all you can do.” This clearly establishes that these stories are about making choices and living with choices, and finding strength and determination to not just survive, but thrive. The characters in these stories are flawed, many contending with difficult circumstances. But through friendship and love, each discovers the beauty in life. It also demonstrates that we are all dealing with life, and our differences shouldn’t keep us from connecting with other people.

I find Morris a contemplative read. When not caught up in Kuell’s details and clear scene construction, I find myself thinking about connection. Life is just hard, for anyone. We all are just trying our best. It’s through connection that we gain understanding and wisdom. It’s friendship that draws us together, creating richer experiences. This is the ultimate story of Morris. Depression, disability, turmoil, uncertainty, these are all just a part of life. No one can escape these. But love and connection drives humans to survive. Morris captures this rich, diverse landscape of the human experience. Life isn’t always easy or fun, struggles can be isolating, but finding the small sparks of joy, and reaching out to discover love is how we survive this journey.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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