Morse Code for Romantics by Anne Baldo

The characters in Anne Baldo’s captivating debut story collection, Morse Code for Romantics, are searching for connection, hoping for love, or even just a little human warmth, amidst the lonely tedium of aimless days and anxious nights. Many of Baldo’s characters are young and aware of a world of promise and opportunity that awaits them, but are unsure how to reach that world and attain that promise, or else they’re indifferent to its existence. 

Baldo sets her stories in a distinctly unpromising landscape: a desolate and backward version of small-town southern Ontario, a place scarred by neglect where rust and rot spread unhindered, where gardens are left to become tangled and chaotic. “We lived on a dead-end street,” Ophelia observes in “The Way to the Stars,” a statement that succinctly sums up the lives of many of the people we meet in these stories. Ophelia loves Tamás, but Tamás loves Molly. He has time for Ophelia too, but only after a bust-up with Molly, who, he knows, will always come back to him. “I existed for him in the voids between,” Ophelia reflects despairingly, “and what exists in voids is nothing.” 

“Baldo’s families are invariably broken, often beyond repair.”

“Baldo’s families are invariably broken, often beyond repair.”

The title story takes place at a wedding. Trevor and Livvy are tying the knot and Jordan, who narrates, slowly reveals why the mood is anything but celebratory: this is not a happy event but instead a forced union between two very young people who made a life-altering mistake. Baldo’s stories generate a strong sense of time passing, of opportunity slipping away, and are often steeped in melancholy. Lucy, in “Last Summer,” spends her break from university with friends Sadie and Rhea and boyfriend Arthur, binge drinking, drifting from party to party, from one encounter to the next, obsessed with cheap jewelry, lip gloss, nail polish and Everett, with whom she’s infatuated. Lucy’s is a life of inconsequential distraction, but Anne Baldo’s prose digs beneath the veneer to reveal unexpected complexity in her characters’ yearnings and regrets. 

Baldo’s families are invariably broken, often beyond repair. Young Colt, in “Fish Dust,” is terrified of—and fascinated by—his estranged father and rough half-brothers. Jumping at a chance to go fishing with them, the experience teaches him that his father is a man who leaves only destruction and sorrow in his wake. And in “Wishers,” Demetria is searching for her lost daughter. Cora, a university student, has fallen under the sway of an older man, Hayes, a black-sheep son of privilege, and an addict. When she finally tracks the pair down at a fleabag motel, she is unable to persuade Cora to leave Hayes and so finds a way to make generosity her revenge. 

Throughout, Baldo’s prose shines. Her writing effectively evokes a world that is familiar and strange at the same time, pulling the reader into lives scarred by loss and loneliness. These are poignant, wise, memorable stories by a writer whose vision may be bleak, but it’s a vision that rings true on every page.  

Anne Baldo’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including Broken PencilCarousel MagazineHermineQwerty and SubTerrain. Her creative nonfiction piece “Expecting” was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize. Morse Code for Romantics is her first collection. She lives in Windsor, Ontario.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Porcupine’s Quill (2023-03-03)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 192 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0889844569
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0889844568

 -- Website

Ian Colford’s short fiction has appeared in many literary publications, in print and online. His work has been shortlisted for the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, the Journey Prize, the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and others. His latest novel, The Confessions of Joseph Blanchard, was the winner of the 2022 Guernica Prize and was published by Guernica Editions in 2023. He lives in Halifax.

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