Admittedly, some readers might question the need for an Atlantic Canadian anthology of “fish stories,” but editors Andrew Atkinson and Mark Harris use the well-trod theme as a loose starting point to examine spirituality and faith (and doubt) in the region’s literature.
On a basic level, the book serves as a “who’s who” of Atlantic short fiction, with stories by established authors such as Alistair MacLeod, Lynn Coady, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Michael Crummey. The works span a 25-year period—as far back as David Adams Richards’ masterful 1978 story, “We, Who Have Never Suffered”—which serves to highlight this perpetual return to contemporary issues of faith: whether that faith be religious, economic, sexual or familial.
That said, the collection’s gritty realism can overwhelm, with only Jessica Grant’s “My Husband’s Jump” offering a momentary respite. These are stories that should be contemplated slowly and treated as individual meditations.
Running the Whale’s Back:
Stories of Faith and Doubt from Atlantic Canada
edited by Andrew Atkinson and Mark Harris
$19.95, paperback, 304 pp.
Goose Lane Editions, October 2013