2023 COMMON READER
The Denver 2023 Convention features Brenda Peynado’s wonderful short story collection The Rock Eaters. While these stories could be described as colorful, they can also be exhilarating, thought-provoking, and, at times, terrifying. They are best read with a buddy, so please persuade your friends to read The Rock Eaters and to chat about them with you in your chapters and in “Colorful Colorado.”
The first story in Brenda Peynado’s The Rock Eaters, “Thoughts and Prayers,” opens with the sentence, “The morning before the school shooting passed like any other, all my neighbors out at dawn performing oblations to the angels on our roofs.” The subject of the first half of the sentence feels sadly familiar to us. Peynado forces us to see the world with all its imperfections; she never shies away from the unpleasant issues that challenge our daily lives. But the amazing feature of Peynado’s writing is the ability to shift our focus, even within a sentence, to move us away from what we know in order to examine what we don’t yet understand. This collection of stories is an English major’s dream because we can admire the skillful use of extended metaphor, the careful crafting of sentences, and the imaginative, sensitive use of language. The stories force us to think, to consider how fantastic elements addressed still manage to ‘make sense’ of our daily reality. Some of the stories are chilling; others may make you cry.
What sets The Rock Eaters apart from other books is the writer’s ability to make us feel, to make us care about a world that exists specifically in each story’s setting. Reading Peynado’s writing is like watching a magician reveal objects that we did not see before, but we are challenged to believe that they were always there. This magical element of Peynado’s writing leaves the reader pleased at the details revealed, all the while wondering, “how did she do that?” The author’s ability to recreate the world leaves us wondering what is “real,” and leaves us amazed at the power and impact of language.
The Rock Eaters is a collection of short stories that are perfect for discussion at chapter meetings throughout the year. Each story allows for discussion of particular themes, settings, and topics to spark conversation between two friends, or discussions in large groups of readers. Sigma Tau Delta convention attendees will have opportunities to share their readings of the text with new friends. Most special of all will be the opportunity for us to meet with Brenda Peynado! Not only will we have the privilege of hearing her read her work, in her own voice, but we will be able to discuss her work in a special session with the author, allowing the author and the readers to share colorful observations of these precious gems of stories.