This collection of short stories follows young adults who are navigating a world that doesn’t seem to have room for them … stories of people looking for meaning and more often than not, wandering.
With the book’s self-describing blurb I felt akin to a trout – a venerable cold water rainbow, wary of hooks and nets and shiny things, eluding anglers for years. Until now. This lure, you see, attracted me. Something about wandering – an appealing glint in the water.
This passage from In One Place, the opening story, I feel, exemplifies fine writing:
He walked to the end of the yard and stood by the chest-high fence. He put a hand on the warm wood and felt the varnish. It was holding up well. They’d put it in just a month or so ago, after a moose had stepped over the older shorter fence and eaten their cabbages. Jeanie, Tess, and Rory were picking weeds and tossing them into little plastic buckets. Their children’s hands would work fastidiously one moment and then the next they were turning the soil or mushing an ant or smearing dirt across a lip en route to picking a nose.
Straight-forward observations that in fact encapsulate so much: sensory engagement, locale and time alluded to, all with judicious word usage. That’s a fishing fly I want to strike.
From the story Like in a Movie, another resonating passage, the enticing twitch of well-played hackle, hiding a barb:
He passed pickup trucks and eighteen-wheelers in a haze while stars spun around the earth and the air cooled; mist rose from the ground and closed in around the van like malignant fog from the John Carpenter movie.
From dreamy to concrete, serpentine musings we associate with wandering – relatable and ordinary, yet because of this, unique. Told with an honesty that can blur fiction with fact, stories I can’t help but think may be real.
Again, from Like in a Movie:
“I can’t be with a man with no religion. Everyone needs one. It doesn’t matter what it is, but everybody needs a framework for their lives. A man without religion is like . . .” she trailed off. Another fish leapt from the lake. “Like a fish without water, just flopping around gasping for breath until it dies. A man with religion dies too, but at least he gets to swim. Those who don’t only ever manage to float. I can’t be with a man without religion.”
And just like that, Conor McCarthy manages to reveal my very own plot submerged in his stories. Wanderings deliver beautifully on its promise, guiding us on a meandering route through a collection of lives, an amalgam of short story adventures – simple, detailed, complex and relatable. In other words, the aqueous wanderings in all of us.
Wanderings: Stories From the Road is a Miramichi Reader 2020 “Pick” recognizing it as a noteworthy independently published title.
About the Author: Conor McCarthy is a writer and editor based in Ottawa, ON. He published his debut novel The Great Divide in December 2018. His work has been published in Canadian Rockies Annual, The McGill Daily, The Veg and Steps literary magazines, as well as in Traffic Cone Quarterly, a publication which he founded.
Title: Wanderings: Stories from the Road
Author: Conor McCarthy
Publishing Date: 2020
Pgs: 208 pp
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