I enjoy reading short story collections, particularly when there are connections between the stories, for instance, reoccurring characters. Such is the case in Licia Canton’s The Pink House and Other Stories (2018, Longbridge Books), her second collection of short fiction.
The two main characters throughout the majority of the stories are Rita, an Italian-Canadian, and an unnamed woman who gets struck by a car outside the Bell Centre in Montreal. Some patience is required on the part of the reader for the stories seem a little random at first, many not using proper names or are written from different perspectives. After a few stories, the pieces begin to fall into place, and the reader’s patience is rewarded with some fine exercises in creative writing of otherwise mundane incidents looked at by a discerning eye. Renewing a driver’s licence (“The Motorcycle”), buying a home (“The Pink House”), writer’s block (“Soft Pastels”), a hit and run (“In Front of the Bell Centre”), and a chance meeting in the library stacks (“In the Stacks”) all supply events for the keen interpretive eye of Ms. Canton.
The most poignant story is that of the encounter between a very pregnant Rita and a man in the deserted stacks at the Université de Montréal library. They are both after the exact same books on the history of Italians in Montreal.
“Am I in your way?” she asked boldly.
He stood there tall, satchel in hand, leaning slightly against the stacks.
“J’attends,” he grinned. “It’s okay. Take your time. I’ll wait.”
“You are waiting for..?” She looked at him quizzically. “What?”
“I need those books.” He indicated the shelf.
“Which ones?” she asked, hopeful that he wasn’t referring to the ones she needed.
“All of them,” he answered.
“Oh.” She wasn’t sure if he was serious or just toying with her. He wasn’t making a pass at her, was he? That belly of hers was sure to keep men away for a while. But she was weary of French-speaking artsy types who smiled too easily.
They soon decide to take the books to a table and sit down with them. Rita remains leery of the man (who soon introduces himself as Massimiliano) and a cautious conversation (on Rita’s part) results. The outcome of this meeting is continued in other stories in The Pink House, as is the story of the woman who was the victim of the hit and run outside the Bell Centre.
Several of the stories in The Pink House were previously published, and it would appear that the new stories were written to fill in the gaps or to extend the storylines already begun. The result is some very satisfying reading that includes very real people and situations.
The Pink House and Other Stories can be purchased online through Longbridge Books here: https://accenti.ca/product/the-pink-house-and-other-stories-by-licia-canton/