I became an instant fan of Toronto author Danila Botha after reading her first full-length novel, Too Much on the Inside (2015, Quattro Books) last year, concluding: “This is an impressive first novel from this young, energetic author and it is my hope that more titles will be forthcoming.”I didn’t have too long of a wait, for Ms Botha has just released a collection of new short stories entitled For All of the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known (2016, Tightrope Books). There are eighteen stories, all grouped under various headings such as Meeting, Falling In, Falling Out, Friendship and finally, Resolution. As you can guess, these stories are all about personal relationships and its various stages. Here, Ms Botha is at her best and she has noticeably matured in her writing since releasing the small short story collection Got No Secrets in 2010 (also from Tightrope Books), a group of rather ‘raw’ stories of the victims of addiction, abuse, rape and suicide based on her volunteer work with Na-Me-Res, an organisation benefiting the homeless.
Yes, Ms Botha’s writing has definitely matured, and now she writes about relationships from a different focal point: more experienced, the characters a bit older, but no less afflicted with life’s problems, whether it is a new bride emotionally abused by her new mother-in-law and sister-in-law in “My Second Family”, childhood friends who help each other through their addiction issues in “The Womanizer”, a woman who converts to Judaism for the man she loves in “It’s Our Life”, or the betrayal of love by successful lawyer in “How People Work” all are stories that hold out a promising ‘light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel’ type of ending; the person (usually the woman) coming out of the ordeal, stronger, wiser, more in touch with herself than ever before. Take for instance “The Keeper of Your Secrets” about a woman who is a veteran of several failed relationships, including a marriage. She finally meets someone online and they hit it off together. Ms Botha’s character concludes:
“You are sure that there is something miraculous about the way you managed to find each other. You hope that, somehow, you’ll manage to keep each other.”
As a short story addict, I devoured this collection, and I hope Ms Botha continues to hone her craft producing more stories with that healthy touch of realism that she has come to be recognised for.