This collection of short stories is wide-ranging—in time, from the 1970s up to present day, in place, from Halifax to Newfoundland, Montreal, Florida and England, in gender and even points of view, between third-person and first. Reading it is like taking a whirlwind trip. We meet all kinds of characters from all kinds of places. They each paint a tender and eccentric vignette.
The theme of loneliness weaves through connecting the stories. Sometimes the loneliness is obvious and direct, as with Marianne, who we meet in part one of the book, “The Marianne Stories”, of which we get three. “It was like that with everything Marianne tried to do to help. She was not needed, not really in any way that might last.” She is hungry for fellowship and her soul-searching leads her to a Pentecostal Worship Centre. “The pastor was saying something about loneliness, and tears started running down Marianne’s face and made her furious with herself.”
Or as with the young Kerry, in the book’s title story, who loved “more than anything else in the world, singing harmony”, but with “the longing he had for a friend with whom to sing.” At other times the theme of loneliness is not so direct. It’s only at the end of the story, or on reflection even that we realize the character is longing for something else, something more, most often freedom. The protagonists in the stories are not all decent, honest and kind, but readers will find themselves sympathetic towards them nonetheless.
Part two contains 11 stories. The collection is so good you want to devour it all, and just keep turning the pages. But they are profound and thought-provoking stories, each worthy of reflection. You are better off taking your time, spreading them out and enjoying them.
With humour, Winter chronicles the everyday and the unusual. She presents us with mystery, intrigue and cliffhangers, as with Clare’s tribulation in “Anhinga”. She takes us vividly into the lives and places of others. We know just what a character old Madame DeLorimier has been her whole life when we meet her in “Madame Poirer’s Dog”. Then there is a lesson about growing old with a bittersweet tender moment when an old lady is brought back to her youth in “Flyaway”. “…the thought made something like childish joy spring up inside me for the first time since…”
Kathleen Winter is an award-winning writer, known for both her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Annabel and her first collection of short stories, boYs. Some stories in this second collection may be familiar to readers; earlier versions of some have appeared in other publications, The Walrus, The Pottersfield Portfolio, CBC’s Brief Encounters series, Rattling Books audio anthology Earlit Shorts and CNQ: Canadian Notes and Queries.