Animal Person by Alexander MacLeod

The connections that bind people together, that shape destinies and affect lives for good or ill in the contemporary world, is fertile terrain that Alexander MacLeod explores in his second collection of short fiction. These eight elegantly written stories bring searing focus to human relationships tested by unforeseen circumstance. MacLeod’s characters are distant relatives, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, lovers, neighbours and strangers who have ventured or been drawn into situations that threaten or challenge something they hold dear.

David, the narrator of “Lagomorph”—father of three grown children and separated from his wife, Sarah—is living by himself in the family home with Gunther, the pet rabbit. What blew the marriage apart? “I think we just wore down,” he explains in blasé terms, “and eventually, we both decided we’d had enough and it was time to move on.” The separation is amicable. But David, alone and adrift, finds his life profoundly altered. Almost inevitably his days revolve around the aging rabbit, Gunther, who is his anchor to the past and his fragile bridge to the future. David claims that all is well, that he’s adjusting. But when a crisis occurs—one that places Gunther’s life in danger—his fear is existential.

“Throughout, the narrative tone is contemplative and unhurried. MacLeod writes with unfailing ease and confidence.”

In “The Dead Want,” the tragic death of his 20-year-old cousin Beatrice brings Joe’s family back to Nova Scotia for the funeral, where, finding the place and the people different from how he remembers them, he is emboldened to act out the changes he sees in himself. In “The Ninth Concession,” which is set in Ontario farming country, the young narrator’s long-time friendship with Allan, the son of his well-off neighbours, the Klassens, abruptly ends after a disturbing, late-night encounter. “Once Removed” tells the story of Amy and Matt, who are manipulated into visiting Matt’s great aunt. But the old lady’s true motive for issuing the invitation doesn’t become clear until after they arrive at her apartment. And the collection’s final gripping story, “The Closing Date,” told in retrospect a few years after the event, describes the eerie close encounter between a young family and a murderer on the day the couple are set to close the deal on their new house.

Throughout, the narrative tone is contemplative and unhurried. MacLeod writes with unfailing ease and confidence; his uncluttered prose sparkles, seducing the reader with natural, plain-spoken rhythms, while the stories themselves enthrall. The seeming effortlessness with which these tales of modern angst are composed is deceptive: a true artist in total control of his craft, MacLeod keeps the nuts and bolts—the sweat and agony—of the creative process well hidden from view.

The collection sets its sights on the anxieties that plague everyone living in this fraught modern world, the myriad dilemmas, large and small, with which we grapple on a daily basis. Moving and memorable, Animal Person confirms in triumphant fashion Alexander MacLeod’s reputation as an author of bold, ingenious short fiction.

About the Author

ALEXANDER MacLEOD was born in Inverness, Cape Breton, and raised in Windsor, Ontario. His first collection, Light Lifting (Biblioasis), was a national bestseller, won an Atlantic Book Award, and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Thomas Head Raddall Fiction Award, and the Commonwealth Book Prize. In 2019, he won an O. Henry Award for his short story “Lagomorph,” which was originally published in Granta and is included in his forthcoming new collection, Animal Person. MacLeod holds degrees from the University of Windsor, the University of Notre Dame, and McGill. He currently lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and teaches at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ McClelland & Stewart (April 5 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0771029888
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0771029882

Ian Colford’s short fiction has appeared in Grain, The Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead and other literary publications. His books are Evidence, The Crimes of Hector Tomás, Perfect World and A Dark House and Other Stories. His work has been shortlisted for the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, the Journey Prize, and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. A new collection of linked stories, Witness, will be published by Porcupine's Quill in spring 2023.