By Ann Chiappetta
By Chris Kuell © November 2022
Fiction; Short Stories
Atmosphere Press https://atmospherepress.com/books/morris-by-chris-kuell/
Kindle$7.99 softcover $15.99 302 pp.
From the publisher
A wounded Vietnam veteran builds a guitar as a first step toward rebuilding his life. A young man is ejected from the foster system and hitchhikes his way across America in search of that elusive feeling of home. An unsatisfied twenty-something questions her relationships and imagines other possibilities. A single father struggles to come to terms with his daughter’s growing up. A street musician touches people with her words and her music.
Morris by Chris Kuell is a collection of fourteen powerful stories brimming with evocative landscapes and memorable characters. Navigating desire, despair, healing, and love—the residents of this collection are all searching to better understand themselves. Woven together through the universal thread of music, these stories, witnessed by a well-worn guitar, expose insecurities and highlight the power of endurance and personal transformation.
Full disclosure, Chris Kuell, the author, and I have been friends for over twenty years. We first met in a critique group. Shortly afterward, Chris gained the position as editor-in-chief of the online literary magazine, Breath and Shadow and he invited me to assist in fencing submissions. Needless to say, we’ve witnessed one another grow into our authorly legs, stretched a few inches creatively since we first met. After reading Morris and being captivated by the breadth and depth of the stories, I’ve got to admit a bit of the fan girl thing developing. I think it is because of the play list introducing each story. The nostalgic value of the songs and song lyrics should not be overlooked. Each song attaches a specific emotion to each story and enhances the theatric backdrop of the stories in this collection.
While each story in Kuell’s Morris is a stand-alone piece, the author presents an appealing literary repast. This book is an experience of relationships and life’s vicissitudes. What I loved about the book were the realistic interpersonal connections and how the characters were influenced by either positive or negative circumstances. Each story touched a part of what it means to be human, to feel, love, care, hope and suffer. For example, how sweet or misunderstood a kiss can be, how good intentions are overcome by remorselessness and violence, or how bias and bigotry can escalate into devaluing a human life. Some stories ended tragically and some ended ambiguously, each one resonated. Like a superb meal at a favorite restaurant, I reflected upon them for days. A creative piece with longevity is a great accomplishment and Chris Kuell’s book will stick to your soul and speak to your heart.
Reader’s Note: On February 21, 2023, Chris died from complications resulting from cancer. He was sixty years old. His obituary follows:
Christopher S. Kuell
June 14, 1962, ~ February 21, 2023 (age 60)
Christopher Kuell passed away on Tuesday, February 21st, 2023, at 60 years of age. He died in his home, surrounded by family members and love.
Chris led such a unique and interesting life that it is impossible to represent him in a few short paragraphs. He was born in 1962 in Salem, Massachusetts to Paul and Diana Kuell, one of six children. He was a brilliant and hardworking man, earning his Ph. D. in Chemistry from the University of Vermont in 1990 and working as a research scientist with Ciba Geigy before losing his sight at the age of thirty-five. Although becoming blind due to diabetes completely changed his life, Chris applied his brilliant mind, iron will, and open heart to building a new, beautiful, and independent life. He learned to cook, to travel, to play guitar, to shop, to play board games, and anything else a sighted person could do. He became involved with the National Federation of the Blind, attending and leading events, and collaborating with other blind and visually impaired people to make the world a better place for people with disabilities. He also began writing, publishing articles about life as a newly blind person and blind father, which ignited a passion for the written word that motivated him for the rest of his life. Five years after losing his sight, another major health complication threatened this newly built life. However, his brother David’s decision to donate a kidney to Chris in 2002 saved him. Sadly, David passed away in 2013, but his gift allowed Chris to live another 21 years.
When his children were young, Chris dedicated himself to his family – cooking dinner, quizzing his children Nicholas and Grace on multiplication tables while they were in the bathtub, and listening to bedtime books-on-tape at night. As the kids went off to college, Chris pursued a host of other passions. He applied his Chemistry degree to brewing delicious “Blind Wino” brand wine. He began editing Breath and Shadow, a literary magazine dedicated to publishing authors with disabilities. He helped run a monthly book club for friends and members of his community. With his fellow parishioners at Saint James’ Episcopal Church, he prepared food and washed dishes for Dorothy Day, our local soup kitchen. His most recent labor of love was publishing his book, Morris, just a few short months ago. If you want to know something about who Chris was, what he valued, or how he saw the world, you’re in luck – he put his heart and soul into Morris and left it for us to read and re-read whenever we need to be close to him.
Chris was an exceptional man who will be remembered as the blind guy who walked his kids back and forth to elementary school, a faithful and dedicated member of St. James’ Church, a fierce advocate for the disabled, marginalized, and disenfranchised. He will be remembered for his quick wit, his passion, his sense of humor. Those who survive him will miss him immensely: his wife, Christine DiMeglio; his children, Grace Kuell, Nicholas Kuell, and daughter-in-law Alexis Willoughby; his siblings: Cathy and Kenny Halchak, Sandra Kuell, Michael Kuell and Jenn Cobb, Jon Kuell and Maureen Buckley; his soul siblings: Tammy Kuell, Lisa Patey, Mike DiMeglio, Scott Kiem; his gang of admiring nieces and nephews.
To know him was to laugh with him, think with him, lean on him knowing he would always be there, to cry with him, ask his advice, pray with him, talk books or sports or – if you were brave – politics with him. Chris radiated love – love for life, and love for those lucky enough to know him. He will be missed by countless people and in a myriad of ways. We are forever grateful for the gift of knowing Chris Kuell, and for knowing that this wonderful man is now at peace.
A service celebrating the life of Chris Kuell was held on March 11, at 11 am, at Saint James’ Episcopal Church, 25 West Street in Danbury CT 06810.
In lieu gifts of any kind, consider a tax-deductible contribution to Resources for Organizing Social Change (ROSC, PO Box 2444, Augusta, ME 04338-2444), the parent organization for Breath & Shadow, a quarterly journal of disability culture and literature, where Chris served as editor-in-chief. Include a note with the check that your donation is for Breath & Shadow in memory of Chris Kuell. ROSC is a public 501(c)3 charity.
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