I’ve always been a fan of short story collections, especially because they are the ‘hidden gems’ of the literary world; not many them are published because they don’t typically sell very well. But it is my
expert humble opinion that readers of all kinds should read short stories, so I’m always happy to profile them on this blog whenever possible.
Calgary native Deborah Willis has just released her second collection titled The Dark and Other Love Stories, which is a follow up to her first book Vanishing and Other Stories. I read Vanishing when it came out, and I vaguely remember enjoying it, but further than that I couldn’t tell you anything else about it-I simply cannot recall anything about books I read years ago-which is why I blog about them! Anyway, I more than vaguely enjoyed Deborah’s latest book, I REALLY enjoyed it. And before I go any further, I should mention I’m friends with Debbie, (although truth be told, I’m not sure she likes being called Debbie, we’re not besties or anything so I can’t say for sure). I’m so fortunate to have many wonderful writers in my life, but this can be a bit awkward when you’re a book reviewer. Luckily, I truly liked this book, so I’m more than happy to give it a positive review.
The most appealing part about Willis’s writing is her ability to seamlessly weave fantastical elements into her stories that are otherwise about normal people doing normal things. For instance, my favourite story of this collection is called “Girlfriend On Mars” which is about a small-time drug dealer whose girlfriend successfully auditions for a reality television show that is sending two people to colonize mars. Now I only have netflix so I don’t watch reality t.v., but I’m pretty sure this show MUST be in the audition process if it hasn’t started airing already. So although the premise of this story seems some what out of this world (pun intended), it’s totally believable, and would not put off a science-fiction hater because the story is still very literary. The crumbling of their relationship is really the focus, and the characterization is impressive considering how small the word count is.
The last story of the collection is called “Steven and Lauren: Three Love Stories”, which is just what it sounds like; three mini stories about the same two people. I absolutely adored this; the unique format, the characters themselves, and the way the collection ended with the last love story between these two. Essentially, we wake up with Steven and Lauren after a nap, and they are both seniors, trying to piece together their life as they wander through their own house looking for clues. It’s a very visceral story, the writing places you right alongside them as they use their belongings as a roadmap for the life they led together, but can’t really remember. It sounds sad, but it’s not, it’s just honest and humbling.
So there, this book comes highly recommended, and I think I gave you some pretty good reasons why.
I am a big fan of short stories too. This collection sounds wonderful! I really enjoy novels and stories with an element of the fantastic to them, but otherwise grounded in reality. I checked my library and we have a copy of her first book – I’ll get it!
you will definitely enjoy it!
I’ve been enjoying short stories more and more, so I’m always happy to get recommendations for them. This one sounds good!
it seems like short stories are becoming more and more common which is nice to see, and this is a good collection!
I’m the same way; I absolutely cannot remember most books for long, namely because I don’t have any sort of history or framework of other books to hang the novel on. For instance, reading contemporary novels means I compare one book to another in my head, but then they all sound the same. I’ve studied a lot more African American fiction, poetry, history, and theory, so I remember books in that sub-genre.
I’m glad to know I’m not the only one! I suspect many book lovers like us are the same way, we just readily admit it that’s all 🙂
I’ll have to read this, seems like something I’d enjoy!
I’m reading this right now. I’m five stories in, and two have made me cry. One today, at lunch, at work. This is so good and I’m so glad it made the Giller longlist!
oh which stories made you cry? Just describe them, I can’t remember the name of the stories themselves. I seem to remember the last story making me a bit weepy…
The one about the guy whoo lives in the woods and the reporter, and the one about the boy who dresses up as optimus prime. 😭
Ohhh yah the Optimus prime one, that got me right in the feelers