Malinda Teel, editor,
Fortitude: True Stories of True Grit
(Red Rock, 2000)

With the advent of Chicken Soup for the Soul, a new subgenre was born: inspiration via personal essays. These days, you can find chicken soup for just about anyone's soul, as well as numerous variations on the theme. Red Rock Press has taken a different and more focused tack with its Virtues Victorious series, which gathers its essays according to the type of virtue.

In this title, Malinda Teel gathers stories from those who have faced some kind of test and endured. The selections are organized by the kind of difficulty: surviving the elements, the challenges of sports, illness, emotional trauma, war, education, work and family.

The opening essay describes how a man lost in the mountains and on the very of freezing to death finds the will to live. In another, a boy plays football to please his father and learns a lesson in self esteem. An abused wife gains the courage she needs to start over. A single mother from a family that doesn't value education writes a letter of gratitude to the professor who inspired her. These stories and most of the others are inspiring and encouraging examples.

I found a few to be less than inspiring, such as the story of a football receiver who plays with two broken hands or the woman who does psychic readings over the phone in order to get by -- although, to be fair, she's not comfortable with it either. Overall, however, the stories resonate and are well written.

The book is nicely organized, attractive and appealing. Teel scatters inset boxes with inspiring stories from history and pithy quotations throughout the text. The pieces flow smoothly one from the next.

Sometimes you need inspiration with a focus, and if so, this is the book for you.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 13 April 2002

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