Almost everyone in Stoop City, Kristyn Dunnion’s pulsating collection of short fiction, is approaching a crisis of one sort or another: a crossroads where a reckoning is imminent or life-altering decisions are looming. Dunnion’s characters tend to be misfits and rebels: people on society’s fringe struggling against communal norms, people who have given up trying to fit in because they know they don’t and never will. Still, they see what others have and yearn to experience that same love, that same sense of belonging.
In “Now is the Time to Light Fires,” the grieving narrator is convinced her dead lesbian lover, Marzana, has returned and is trying to make up for past bad behaviour and win back her love. In “How We Learn to Lie,” cynical, materialistic Julia, a real estate agent, is all business: wearily accommodating her recently widowed client’s bereavement as she sets about the task of preparing the client’s condominium for presentation and sale. Then, true to form, when her own love life suddenly crumbles, Julie responds not with tears, but with decisive action and steely resolve. Teenage Ohio, in “Daughter of Cups,” is just starting to awaken to the fact that there is more to life than what goes on in the boring, ramshackle lakeside town where she and her distracted mother make their home. Confused by feelings for an older teen named Kevin Moody, who ignores her, and craving affection, she gives regular hand jobs to a biker: the only adult in her sphere who seems to take any interest in her. And “Tracker and Flow” is the taut story of a young professional couple, Kelly and Tom, whose latest failed attempt at in vitro fertilization sparks a disastrous series of events that ends in the collapse of their life together.
Some of the stories are loosely connected—gay teen Pauly, a subordinate character in “Light Fires,” turns up in “Adorno To Devoto” playing the tragic lead—lending the collection dramatic as well as thematic unity. But as engaging as they are, these are not stories for the faint of heart. Dunnion’s characters are deeply flawed, sometimes misguided, often morally compromised and battling a variety of physical and psychological demons. They are unsure of themselves and their place in a world that seems to offer only menace and censure. But when they declare themselves and try to assert their independence, they leave themselves alarmingly vulnerable. Only Jimmy, in the collection’s final two pieces, acts as if he is at home in his own skin, but this level of comfort comes at a steep price.
Kristyn Dunnion is a sharply observant chronicler of the marginal urban experience. In these tightly written stories, nobody gets a break. Even her well-adjusted characters are stretched to the limit by challenging circumstances. What comes through loud and clear though is the author’s empathy for people whose lives are spinning out of control through no fault of their own.
About the Author
Kristyn Dunnion grew up in Essex County, the southernmost tip of Canada, and now lives in Toronto. She is the author of six books, including Tarry This Night and The Dirt Chronicles, a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her short fiction is widely published, most recently in Best Canadian Stories 2020, Foglifter, Orca: A Literary Journal, and Toronto 2033. Dunnion works supporting homeless adults with serious mental illness, and has been a healthy food advocate for marginalized communities in Davenport-Perth, where she resides.
- Publisher : Biblioasis (Sept. 22 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1771963867
- ISBN-13 : 978-1771963862
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