By Diane Dunning
Diane Dunning, $0.99, 18 pages
After writing a successful blog, Backing Down the Driveway, Diane Dunning realized she had a real talent for writing fiction. One Short Year is a collection of the most popular posts from that blog, selections that readers responded to most favorably. Dunning has arranged them into sections that proceed throughout the course of a year. Especially poignant are Dunning’s descriptions of Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer and how each season affects the Northern California seaside town where she has set her stories. She also includes a previously unpublished work titled Love, Mark. In her work, Dunning is able to capture the voices of the young and old and the serious and the quirky.
Many readers will likely be able to identify with Greta, a college student turned wine taster in Wine Notes. Hoping to trade her extracurricular pursuits of beer and reality television for high-class wine and art, she signs up for a wine tasting class. But while everyone around her seems to be able to sense the essence of cherry and leather, she can’t tell the difference between any of the options. What does this say about her life?
In The Small House, the narrator sits with her elderly grandmother and imagines what the redbrick, one-bedroom, 740-square-foot house would say if it could reminisce about its own history. Would it reveal the secrets of the original one-car garage, the ritual meeting place for the family’s men over the years? Would it remember the gossip women shared in the kitchen over the decades? Can a house mourn the silence and emptiness that comes with the old age of its sole owner? When, and why, does a house stop talking?
Some sections of One Short Year read like fully-fleshed out short stories while others feel like fascinating character studies. For example, in The Lineup, readers meet fourteen-year-old Kai as he assesses the waves along Steamer Lane, one of Santa Cruz’s premier surfing spots. In a little over 1,200 words, Dunning reveals the deepest fears and pain in this young boy’s heart, all in a few short moments of time. There is no traditional ending to the story, but readers are left with hope and are able to use what Dunning has provided to create the rest of Kai’s life story in their own minds.
That is what the best of fiction does for us all – allows us to create some of our own stories using our favorite characters or authors as inspiration. Read Diane Dunning’s One Short Year and she will quickly become one of your inspirations.
Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin