Click here to read reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott's take on Drowning in Gruel.
Does the phrase “drowning in gruel” conjure up a pleasant feeling for you? No? Me neither, which is what the author of Drowning In Gruel intended. Specifically, author George Singlton is referring to a fictitious town called “Gruel” in the Deep South – South Carolina, specifically. Doesn’t sounds as pretty as Charleston, South Carolina, does it? It isn’t supposed to.
Gruel is a “one stop light” kind of town. The townsfolk are small in number, but Gruel’s meager population does not mean that its residents are not interesting. In nineteen short stories, Southern writer George Singleton unveils the quirky lives of the residents of Gruel. Many are running schemes against each other or have unique plans (often being to make money). There are strange goings-on in the stories, such as in “Runt,” where a dog named Sister gives birth to twenty-four puppies and the owner hits the road to go on tour with Sister and her brood to gain notoriety and make money. The tour goes awry; the owner ends up cutting it short and ultimately finds out that his wife has left him.
In other stories, citizens do oddball things like giving a wife a gas mask for Valentine’s Day or driving in hazardous snowy conditions with half-inflated tires for no logical reason. One man who wanders through Gruel has a dog that is a “healer,” and his owner makes a living off of the dog’s seemingly magical powers. Other people pass through Gruel, where a woman participates in a car-decorating contest by gluing cat claws all over her Volkswagen Beetle.
If I had to describe Drowning in Gruel in one word, it would be “quirky.” While I cannot say that I enjoyed every story (19 in all) in this book, I did enjoy the majority of them and was amused by the political references in the stories (Go Democrats!). Drowning In Gruel is thought-provoking and funny at the same time. When you are in the mood for some short stories that will make you laugh and think, pick up Drowning In Gruel.