Mike Archer’s collection of short stories, Road of Life, presents characters plunged into extraordinary situations by fate who then win second chances for themselves or others. They may be helped by their own innate decency, god or dumb luck, but the outcomes are all ultimately satisfying. I was reminded that there’s nothing wrong with a happy ending, even one that’s a little contrived, because what the hell, don’t we all need a happy ending from time to time?
Mike is a veteran of the TV news business, retired after decades of covering all manner of manmade and natural disasters, often with tragic endings. So, it’s not surprising that his stories express values rooted in the good of people, stories that don’t often rise to the top of the rundown of the five o’clock news. In my years serving local affiliates at CBS News, the mainstay of my reporters were stories of death and disaster, often the result of poor or criminal choices by humans. The greatest gift of leaving the news business was the ability to turn off the news. While I’m not equating my own sensibilities with Mike’s, I feel a kinship with a fellow career journalist who is able to emerge from that world and still value basic humanity.
Mike’s stories each tell tale of an individual who takes an action, or has a revelation, that changes things. The stories Rescue and Redemption are nail-biters with life-or-death consequences. They’re my favorites. Brother in Black is a darkly familiar story of an abusive priest in an all-boys Catholic school and a whistle-blower’s uphill battle to have him removed. The title story, Road of Life, is an affectionate tribute to the grandpops of the world and their unique relationships with their grandchildren. All the stories in the collection are quick reads and are unambiguous in their narratives.
Give yourself a break and check out Road of Life.