Reviewed by Carole McDonnell
by Cheryl Kirwan
I love omnibus novels, a collection of short stories composed of characters who are connected with each other by chance, location, or situation. In omnibus novels, a secondary character in one story will become a main character in another. Sometimes the omnibus is complicated as in Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa, where characters are unnamed, inter-connected to the extreme (yet often strangers to each other), and who affect each other’s lives for the worst.
In Chewed Confession, Cheryl Kerwin’s Indie Excellence Finalist Book Award book, characters are connected in a straight-forward linear manner. In this case, the characters in these stories are often friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. Thus the main character of one story might casually call a friend or family member and this friend becomes the main character in the following story. This is generally the pattern throughout.
The narrators in each character study are different flavors of gum. So the reader encounters two new characters with each story: a character and a gum with a flavor name. Hence we have narratives from Cherry ubilee, Minty Chocolate, Peppermint, Clove, Cinnamon, Mega Mint Delight, Summer Mint, Triple Bubble, and Fruity Explosion. They relate the lives of Jason, Peter, Abby, Piper, Rita, Matthew, Artie, Rudy, and Lester — people of different ages, and sexes.
Despite the difference in flavors, the wads of gum generally have the same speaking voice and personality. They also have the same destinies: they are removed from a wrapper, chewed in distinctive styles depending on the personality and stress of the chewer, then discarded…either on the ground or in a bin. The human characters are either stressed — because of divorce proceedings, civil lawsuits, dating and love and relationship issues– or are going through life causing stress to others. The wads of gum describe the lives of the human chewers as they describe their own lives as they are chewed, tongue-throttled, etc.
This is a good collection of short stories. They work together as an omnibus novel although the overall feel is of a series of scattered events in the lives of disparate characters. In this way, they are like character studies and the wad of gum’s summation at the end of each story gives a moral of the life event the reader has witnessed. This can be a bit much but I suppose that gums chew on what they have witnessed or seen in the lives of their human chewers and moralizing become part of their personality as they share with other gum acquaintances what they have digested in their short lives.
It’s a fun book.
About the reviewer: Carole McDonnell is a writer of ethnic fiction, speculative fiction, Christian non-fiction, and Christian fiction. Her works have appeared in many anthologies and at various online sites. Her fantasy fiction novels, Wind Follower and The Constant Tower are published by Wildside Press. Her short story collection is Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction by Carole McDonnell. Her self-published books are My Life as an Onion, A Fool’s Journey Through the Book of Proverbs, Oreo Blues, and Seeds of Bible Study: How NOT to study the Bible. She can be found at http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/