A Moose in the Dark by H. W. Browne

H.W. Browne writes poetry and short fiction and received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of British Columbia. She has published several books of poetry, and her story, “Beach Glass,” was recognized as a notable short story by the judges for the 2014 Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award. A native New Brunswicker, she now lives in Ontario.

This small volume of 160 pages contains many good stories, the highlight of which may well be the aforementioned “Beach Glass” which is revolves around a couple’s visit to the Percé Rock and its famous legend of Chevalier Raymond de Nerac, a handsome young officer of the French army who fell in love with a beautiful girl named Blanche de Beaumont, and got engaged to her. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#2B3358″ class=”” size=””]If you like the literary short story genre, then you will enjoy A Moose in the Dark.[/perfectpullquote]My personal favourites are the back-to-back stories of “Storm Day” and “From Here You Can See the House” which contain the characters of Darlene & Jim, although the stories are separated by several years. It’s fascinating how Ms. Browne uses the second story to resolve questions left hanging in the first story, but the second story leaves even more unanswered questions! Such is the nature of the short story: the reader is often brought in in the middle of the story and left before there is a tidy ending. “The Calf’s Skull” and “A Doll in the Clothesline” also contain reoccurring characters although in differing storylines.

Favourite passages:

“The fog came up to the back door there, like a dog looking for a bone, and wrapped its soft jowls around the family home.” (Storm Day)

“And she laughs that empty laugh of hers that says here’s one more thing that she’s been left in the dark about, a wry smile that says in a flash how all of this life with Richard is coming down.” (A Moose in the Dark)

“His face bore the marks of incredulity or embarrassment. It is difficult to tell one from the other. In his way he looked mirthful, perhaps silly. Thin people, I’ve observed, cannot carry off silliness. Silliness is the deportment of the round. One pays attention to an elephantine stomp.” (A Slow, Soft Story)

Quite a few of the fifteen stories in A Moose in the Dark are set in the author’s native province of New Brunswick, adding a degree of familiarity to those stories. For the most part, I enjoyed reading this collection, which is Ms. Browne’s debut in the short story genre. For some reason, I cannot breeze through books like these. A short story, well told, forces me to put the book down after reading one or two at a time. I need to think about what I just read. Did I miss something if I felt a story ended too soon? Was there a hidden message that went undetected, and I need to reconsider a story? Or was the author’s intention to simply tell a story and leave it up to the reader to make of it what he will? A Moose in the Dark contains stories that will- more frequently than not- leave you asking questions like these, which is a good indicator of the author’s short story writing skills. If you like the literary short story genre, then you will enjoy A Moose in the Dark.

A Moose in the Dark by H.W. Browne
Tightrope Books

Additional Praise for A Moose in the Dark:

“Heather Browne had been known to me as an award-winning poet, and more recently a much anthologized short fiction writer. She has a unique style, meticulously rendering each word for the strongest narrative while maintaining a parallel under voice. Her imagery is priceless. A Moose in the Dark is tight, deep, yet sexy; a pleasure to read, savour, and reread.”—Wayne Curtis, author of In the Country

“Aflame with characters in pursuit of connection and salvation, this fine debut collection is saturated with language that is, like all the best truth-telling, both a conflagration and an inundation: seductive, slippery, and sometimes a little shifty-eyed.”—Diane Schoemperlen, author of This Is Not My Life