In Shorts That Fit Well, author Wayne E. Beyea has compiled a collection of what he calls “inspirational short stories.” He’s a witty, conversational writer who combines truth and fiction, humor and more serious pieces.
In his nonfiction pieces, Beyea shares stories of pets and how they came to join the family and of his careers with the U.S. Navy and the New York State Police. “Juvenile-Restorative Justice,” a standout nonfiction piece, describes his brief stint working in juvenile restorative justice, offering mediation between young criminals and their victims and crafting appropriate punishments. He acknowledges in the final paragraph that it’s an odd choice for this collection but notes that restorative justice has fallen out of the news, and he’s hoping the program will be revived.
The fictional stories are uneven in tone but largely sentimental. In “The Purple Martins,” the author uses vivid sensory details and an emotionally satisfying surprise ending to tell the story of a widowed man trying to save a baby bird.
The stories are relayed with a lively spirit and positivity, plus a gentle nod to Christian faith, but the collection sometimes falls victim to its patchwork approach. Had Beyea grouped the autobiographical stories and arranged them chronologically, this could have been a knockout memoir. But dropping in and out of life stories, mixing in fiction tales and occasionally setting aside humor for a serious tone make for unexpected changes in mood, forcing readers to recalibrate their expectations. Additionally, a copy editor could have corrected a multitude of mistakes in grammar, punctuation and word choice.
Those who can overlook such flaws will find a pleasant read that families and animal lovers might particularly enjoy.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.