1) Lagomorph – A long marriage disintegrates through apathy, meanwhile an elderly albino rabbit named Gunther gives the couple a common interest.
2) The Dead Want – A young man travels far to attend the funeral of his first cousin. He learns that family loyalty is subjective.
3) What Exactly Do You Think You’re Looking At? – A bizarre story about a wealthy man who takes other people’s luggage from the baggage carousels at airports. He uses their things, then returns the luggage with a cash apology.
4) Everything Underneath – Siblings who were born eleven months apart spend some late summertime at the seaside. Though they have little in common, they acknowledge their bond.
5) The Entertainer – an adolescent boy is insecure in his piano skills and freezes on stage. An elderly man lives in a care home with his beloved wife who is now suffering from dementia. His wife, and the, find one another.
6) The Ninth Concession – an adolescent boy in Ontario’s farming country learns the value of hard work and befriends some Spanish speaking migrant workers. A trauma marks the end of his childhood.
7) Once Removed – a young couple with an infant diligently visit an elderly relative in Montreal. The story explores the topics of obligation and resentment.
8) The Closing Date – a young couple have a close encounter with a serial killer when they stay in a motel the night before the closing date on their new home.
My favorite quotes from this book:
“It hit him again how hard it was to be a member of a family, fused to all these other people you would never choose and never fully get away from.”
“…the limitless difference that makes us all exactly who we are.”
“It makes you wonder, again, about all the things people don’t know they don’t know.”
“She thought about the afterlife of objects. All the things that were still here and the people who were not.”
“And then we sleep, each of us in temporary bedrooms that will one day be occupied by other people.”
I was delighted to get the opportunity to read this anthology for several reasons. The first being that the author is the son of one of my favorite authors, Alistair MacLeod. The second is that Alexander MacLeod lives in the same city as I do. And the third? Well, the writing talent must be genetic, because this anthology is of the highest quality.
The book begins with a quote from MacLeod senior’s short story “In The Fall” from his anthology Island. (If you haven’t read Island, then you are in for a treat). From then on I knew I was in for a treat.
All eight of the stories in this collection examine what it means to be human. Our strengths and weaknesses are laid bare. Relationships of every permutation are dissected, showing our fears, loves, resentments, choices, desires, regrets, compromises, responsibilities, absurdities, and… our uniqueness. About life being transient, and about choices and consequences of those choices. All manner of average, everyday people living their lives, described in authentic, thoughtful, and skilled prose. The stories are vastly different from one another, some poignant, some hilarious, and one which I found a tad bizarre.
My favorite stories from this collection were “One Removed” and “The Entertainer”.
This literary collection begins with the story “Lagomorph” which won the O.Henry Prize. From then it goes on to further richness in the remaining seven titles. What an excellent read for May, which just so happens to be ‘Short Story Month’. Highly recommended!
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from McClelland & Stewart / Penguin Random House Canada via NetGalley. It was published April 5, 2022.
ISBN: 9780771029882 – ASIN: B09DKF2QLJ – 256 pages
The son of noted Canadian novelist and short story writer Alistair MacLeod, he was born in Inverness, Nova Scotia and raised in Windsor, Ontario, where his father taught at the University of Windsor. He currently lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where he lives with his wife and three children. He teaches at Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax.