"Who would have thought the Mother of our Lord would have chosen the sixties as her decade and appeared in that shimmering white mini-skirt, a tie-dye muscle shirt, and
knee-high, laced granny boots?”
from "Judgment Day with Kelly and Michael," a short story in Sleepers Awake.
What are critics saying about Tree Riesener's Sleepers Awake?
"Eccentric, touching, delightfully unique, Sleepers Awake kept me awake long past my bedtime, engrossed as I was in these characters as they grappled with their demons and their dreams. This is a wonderful debut fiction by Tree Riesener. Not to be missed!
'Sleepers Awake' began as a short story that Gloria Mindock and I were privileged to first publish in the Istanbul Literary Review. Tree Riesener went on to explore her repertoire of characters which she expanded into the book that is here, now, and a prize-winning book at that. No small feat in today's competitive writing arena. Riesener is also an accomplished poet, so she is able to see beneath the surface of things which only adds to the texture, beauty and interest found in this story collection. Eclectic, surprising, raw, sensitive and honest are some words that spring to mind about these stories. A most highly recommended collection." Susan Tepper
Susan Tepper, The Merrill Diaries and From the Umberplatzen
What are the stories about?
Intrusion of the sacred into the profane can be terrifying or, in everyday life, often just a bit quirky, as these stories show. Even when the sacred is not impinging on our usual reality, as in the BVM, the impossible is shown in all its glorious possibility, as in Airdwellers. Get a preview of the stories by reading the synopses below!
Losing St. Augustine
People can be going about their everyday lives, looking for a bit of comfort in some TV and a drink at the end of the day, but find themselves coping with losing that little
first-class relic of a saint that keeps them safe while insider trading
An elderly retired woman may encounter the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary) making herself comfortable in a California trailer park, being matey with the residents and eluding the church establishment who come to confirm (or mock).
Demons are not necessarily grotesque and terrifying. A sleeper demon may very well be enjoying life on earth with an expensive coffee machine and a beloved human wife as he waits to be summoned for the Apocalypse.
A young internet entrepreneur maneuvers through the obstacle course of rude men, nasty bill collectors and a mother who wants to marry her off by the inspiration of her online product, godly gadgets such as holy dove pantyhose and apostle beer steins.
Technical Manuals Aren’t Written Very Well, Are They?
The desire for some company could very plausibly lead a childless micro-biologist to clone herself into a nice little walking talking Adam and Eve she keeps in a terrarium until their needs to efolve overwhelm her and she attempts to wipe them out.
On the C Bus
An elderly woman with a grouchy, abusive husband meets a warming, welcoming god in the person of a prostitute when both are going down Broad Street on the C Bus.
Demon Love Story : I’ve printed below a review of the story by E. Christopher Ott which appeared when the story was first published in Identity Theory. It has a good understanding of the story.
"Demon Love Story by Tree Riesener is a lyric piece of magical realism in a domestic setting. Through the use of a loose second-person point of view, the narrator tells the story of abandoning a long-term, comfortable relationship with Satan to pursue the excitement of a life of affairs and relationships with more suitable amorous interests. But after working through the end of the relationship with the Demon Lover in very real terms, the narrator’s new life playing the field eventually finds the way back to a relationship with a changed, improved Satan, which is yet a life with Satan nonetheless.
The primary attraction of this piece is the skilful use of Satan to personify a relationship that, while mature and developed, lacks the romance that this life should embody. The narrative manages to capture very quickly the essence of new, vibrant love appearing for somebody already in a committed arrangement and contrast it against a pre-existing love of convenience. Particularly stunning is the detailed, contemporary feel of the everyday events catalogued to illustrate the end of a relationship and the adventure of entering new romantic frontiers as well as how, though all new love gives way to old love, the essential nature of a mature relationship can change with experience."
Who Do You Say I Am?
Given his love for common humanity with all their foibles, why wouldn’t a smelly, drunk, crossdressing Jesus meet with the congregation of an Episcopal church on Judgment Day (he let a few people skiing in the mountains enjoy the last run of the day).
Our concept of God has changed over the centuries. Or has God learned and grown? Can we account for the bloodthirsty aspects of the Old Testament God because he was just a little kid God then? This story is the musings of a remorseful god looking back at some very nasty stuff he did when he was a little god who built an experimental world in his parents’ attic.
The Apostle Diaries
Follow the apostle Philip through the ages as he is summoned by god to jerusalem and meets the Ethiopian eunuch along the way and corresponds about the apostle Paul with his niece Priscilla (who would rather worship the goddess by lying with a stranger in the temple to Aphrodite) in Corinth. A present-day Philip, a performance poet. finally marries the twenty-first centurey Priscilla (who is fleeing from Mormons) and metamorphoses into the right-hand man of Paul as he establishes a media empire sending out his famous epistles via blogging.
Judgment Day with Kelly and Michael
The sacred and the profane are rounded off when Pope Benedict Ratzo XVI joins Kelly and Michael in the reviewing stand for the televised version of Judgment Day.
Why Alien Reptoids Shop at Wal-Mart
The adventures of Amanda, abducted by aliens, as told to Jerry Springer—her adventures in a space ship with huge waddling reptoids who love Victoria’s Secret, gorge on onion dip, toast male abductee’s testicles in their Wal-Mart toaster ovens but never forget to send wedding gifts (toaster ovens) to female abductees.
Modems to Hell
The adventures of a typical suburban family (mom, dad, two kids) on judgment day. Hint: there’s a run for groceries at the supermarket (just like on a snow day) and evserybody tidies uup their gardens before heading to church.
Too young to understand that when her parents bang a hammer on their fingers and say “Jesus Christ!” , it’s not the same as wehn they withhold food and water from the old grandmother and tell the little girl she’s gone with Jesus.
The Crucifixion Party
A chubby little girl who wants to be liked is invited to her classmates’ church crucifixion party, where mean little girls who don’t like her, make models of the crucifixion. She hasn’t been raised to be religious but she takes it all seriously and rescues the cardboard Jesuses, cutting their stretched arms off and taping them in a more comfortable position.
Her family have made a duplicate of her, but a young girl in some future time promises her sleeping clone she will never, never, never cut her up for parts to repair her own body.
Lonely, unmarried Miss Arpel leaves her unconfessed confessions, a memoir of the rich imaginary life she shared with her priest and their baby, in a black-and-white notebook. After her death, he burns the confession and uses the ashes to trace a blessing on the congregation’s foreheads.
Those Who Go Up In Towers
The often institutionalized, tortured shooter is on top of a building, waiting to kill those he sees as representing the bullies with “stupid fat faces,” whose god “knows how to twist a piece of skin on your arm until you give him your lunch money.” He tells his split-off other consciousness that they’ll soon be with the good god who has lots of kindness and fresh air for them.
Homeless mothers can help their children escape the genocide of poverty by having the courage to follow luminous visions, even when they live in an airhouse and eventually sail away.
"Tree Riesener’s Sleepers Awake offers a wry, mordant and insightful examination of what faith means in an increasingly secular, doubting society. Her tales are as original as the best of Flannery O’Connor and her wit reminiscent of James Thurber at his most irascible. Yet what sets these stories apart is the author’s abiding compassion for her quirky, beset characters; we sense that she is on their side, so we are too. Sleepers Awake is a necessary collection for our times and a darn pleasurable read."
Jacob M. Appel, The Biology of Luck, Einstein’s Beach House and
Scouting for the Reaper
"Tree writes with an honest and rich voice about things that matter . . . things that reveal the nature of the human condition. Her stories are evocative and engaging. This is a very compelling and worthwhile collection." Gunther Purdue
"It's so unfair that poets get to write fiction as well because they seem to do it so much better than those of us fiction writers would transition to poetry. These stories have the sentence level language skill of poetry, but also weave wonderfully full narrative structures with well developed characters, worlds, and images. Sometimes touching, sometimes funny, always highly human. "Airdwellers" is a personal favorite, but there's something great about each of these stories. Had a great time reading." D.S. Atkinson
"I really enjoyed the stories in this collection. They are written sparely and with enormous precision and I wasn't surprised to discover that Tree Reisener is a very accomplished poet with five completed collections, a multiple prize winner and a scholar of the English language. She draws on a wide range of historical contexts for this collection which is an exploration of how faith/lack of faith plays out in the modern secular world versus a world of conservative Christianity, with a particularly North American flavour.
There is plenty of humour in the stories and plenty of affection for her characters too, even the ones who turn out to be junior members of the legions of Beelzebub. Characters representing the hierarchy of the large monotheistic faiths often seem to get less affection from the author than the demons of hell, which possibly is as it should be.
I have a tendency to devour collections in chronological order and straight through from cover to cover, but I suspect this book would repay a slower reading, a dipping-in-and -out approach, as the collection is intensely themed and I occasionally got a sense of deja vu as I read quickly from story to story.
I felt a particular sympathy for the devil who was in the world trade centre on 9/11 and, quite reasonably assuming it was the last trump sounding, sent his mortal lover to hell to ensure they were reunited in the afterlife and lo and behold, the poor devil is stuck here indefinitely without her!
A very light-touch look at hypocrisy and the changing needs of a modern faith community." Orla MacLinden