Frances Boyle’s first collection of short stories, Seeking Shade, follows two volumes of poetry and a novella. Her skill and control are much in evidence here, the short story genre fitting beautifully with her spare and careful style and her clear-eyed grasp of intent.
The collection roves effortlessly between time periods, location, circumstance, gender, and Boyle displays credibility in all of these. Many of the stories deal with the passage of time, inevitability, choice and consequence. Events seem ordinary in the moment while carrying great significance for what is yet to come. I had the sense while reading these pieces that I was witnessing small moments of profound unfolding. In “Long Term Lease”, set in a remote northern camp, time has almost run out for a couple’s marriage when they feel the strain of secrets, shifting identities, the press of their divergent priorities.
Peg, bifurcated: She is sitting here with her friends, yet also back in Toronto, in Char’s hotel room. She runs her tongue over the inside of her lower lip, still tasting a slight rusty tang of blood from where Char bit it.
In “Cold Air Return”, Jacqui clears out the apartment of her ex-partner Matt after he is arrested on drug-related charges in Florida. When Matt’s ex-wife Carol shows up, the two become unlikely co-excavators in sorting through the detritus of his life. An unexpected collaboration develops, and Jacqui emerges with a new grasp on what is essential to her.
The brisk November wind slams Jacqui when she steps out onto the porch. She lets it blow over her face, pull her hair. She feels cold, but that is just fine. She didn’t realize while she was inside how hot the apartment is. How close.
Boyle’s approach is keenly intelligent. The writing is sophisticated, the language often crystalline and always precise. The characters are sympathetic without hijacking the narrative; one has the impression that well-conceived ideas underpin these stories. I felt, after finishing the volume, that many of the stories found here deserved a second reading.
A final note: both the cover design and overall production of this book are exceptional. It was a great pleasure to handle it and to turn its pages. Simply put, Seeking Shade is a very fine collection.
Frances Boyle has practised corporate law, volunteered for a number of feminist, arts and international development organizations, and served as a board member and Associate Poetry Editor for Arc Poetry Magazine. She is the author of a novella (Tower, Fish Gotta Swim Editions, 2018), two books of poetry, (This White Nest, Quattro Books, 2019 and Light-carved Passages, BuschekBooks, 2014), and several chapbooks. Seeking Shade is her first collection of short fiction. She lives in Ottawa with her partner and a large standard poodle who believes he is a lap dog.
- Paperback : 160 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0889844356
- ISBN-13 : 978-0889844353
- Publisher: Porcupine’s Quill (April 1, 2020)
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