short stories

Twelve Miles to Midnight, by André Narbonne

The first three stories in this short story collection feature a young boy named Derek and his mother who are, for reasons we do not yet know, fleeing. The mother rousts the boy out of bed well past midnight to drive to check on their worldly possessions which are in a parked moving van on a highway. In this unsettled way, the reader embarks with Derek as he negotiates the perils of life as a child and outsider in a small town, isolation and responsibility in his job as an engineer at sea, and the flow and ebb of a relationship.…

Down in the Ground by Bruce Meyer

In the collection of short flash fiction, Down in the Ground, author Bruce Meyer brings both wit and philosophical curiosity to his musings on death. These stories are brief and sometimes startling. In other hands, the subject might be given a maudlin treatment but here, the tone is surprisingly restrained, and at times, ironic.

In the story, “In Place”, ducks, having escaped the guns of hunters, alight on the narrator’s pond only to become frozen in place.…

Fontainebleu by Madeline Sonik

The world of Madeline Sonik’s unsettling volume of short fiction, the town of Fontainebleau, is menacing, tragic, violent and surreal. These seventeen linked stories chronicle the traumas, tormented longings and reckless escapades of the anguished adults, freaks of nature, psychos, juvenile delinquents, lost and frightened children, and at least one haunted police officer, who live there. Fontainebleau is a dead-end place, blighted, ill-starred, ramshackle and dangerous: a place that breeds desperation and engenders boredom, despair, sometimes wild and irrational hope, among its unlucky inhabitants—a place that people escape from rather than to—a place where a dead body, sawn in half, turns up in the river.…

Seeking Shade By Frances Boyle

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.…

Grotesquerie by Richard Gavin

Note: The following review originally appeared in the September 25th, 2020 issue of HA&L RAVE and is reprinted here with their kind permission.

CHTHONIC TRANSCENDENCE

Book Review by Danny Jacobs


Descents


In a recent interview, Richard Gavin discussed the importance of “katabasis” to his work – an ancient Greek concept that suggests a journey downward, often to the underworld. Grotesquerie, Gavin’s latest collection of dark fiction, draws deeply on katabasis.…

Nothing Could Be Further from the Truth: Stories by Christopher Evans

Christopher Evans knows how to write. Without having met, I felt a kinship to this Vancouver author. His author’s resume is solid. I felt reviewing this work, a short story collection*, would not be hard work—that it should, in fact, be enjoyable. I was right.

From Always Hungry, Always Poor, the opening story:

The wife landlord has a bit of the darkness, too.

People Like Frank: and other stories from the edge of normal by Jenn Ashton

Jenn Ashton’s short stories are peopled with humble and forward-leaning characters, the collection aptly called People Like Frank.
Like many avid readers, I enjoy a good and satisfying dive into dark waters. I regularly embrace contradictions, twists and moral ambiguity. So it was completely unexpected for me to find myself quite simply relieved by the optimism in this collection. People Like Frank felt like a balm, particularly coming as it did during violent social unrest and a pandemic.…

The End of Me: Stories by John Gould

In his third collection of very short fiction, Giller Prize finalist (in 2003 for Kilter) John Gould turns his laser focus on death in its infinite variety. A whole book about death might seem intimidating, or, to some, simply depressing. But by approaching the subject from every conceivable angle and constructing his stories using a profusion of refreshing and startling perspectives, Gould keeps his reader guessing and slightly off-balance throughout the volume.…

Toward the North: Stories by Chinese Canadian Writers, edited by Hua Laura Wu, Xueqing Xu, and Corinne Bieman Davies

Toward the North: Stories by Chinese Canadian Writers is a thoughtfully coordinated anthology by editors Hua Laura Wu, Xueqing Xu, and Corinne Bieman Davies. Each story feels like it is presented in exactly the right place and at exactly the right moment in relation to the other stories it shares a cover with. The over-arching theme of the entire collection is Chinese transnational and cross-cultural life experience, and some other common shared themes include the relationship with one’s family, the significance of names, language barriers, and Western vs. …

2020 Shortlist: “The Very Best!”Short Fiction

Last year, the Best Short Fiction category sported a meagre two titles (mind you, they were excellent ones!) but 2020 proved to be more of a watershed year for good solid, short story collections. Even some ingenious flash fiction was thrown into the mix. Here are the five shortlisted titles for Best Short Fiction, in no particular order.

Of the above five titles, three will be awarded either gold, silver, or bronze award early in September 2020.…

The Quantum Theory of Love and Madness by Jerry Levy

Jerry Levy’s quirky narratives provide a high-spirited alternative perspective on the crushing emotional isolation and myriad pressures that often accompany modern urban life. The fourteen stories in The Quantum Theory of Love and Madness, Levy’s follow-up to his 2013 collection Urban Legend, also frequently stretch the boundaries of narrative plausibility and occasionally veer into pure fantasy. 

A Diverse Cast of Characters

Levy’s diverse cast of characters includes children and men and women in various age groups, but in his most satisfying and fully realized stories, his protagonists tend to be men in their thirties or forties, aimless and living alone, out of shape, lacking confidence, who have lost their jobs, or else married and cracking under the stress of daily life.…

Seeds and Other Stories by Ursula Pflug

In my years of reading and reviewing, I consider Ursula Pflug one of my “finds”, that is, an author that I enjoy reading and want to read everything he/she produces. I was first introduced to Ms. Pflug by her 2017 novella Mountain. Down From (2018), is derived from the seeds of two short stories (“The Dreams of Trees” and “Daughter Catcher”) in this collection of her previously published works from the past decade or so.…

Wanderings: Stories From the Road by Conor McCarthy

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.…

In the Beggarly Style of Imitation by Jean Marc Ah-Sen

Jean Marc Ah-Sen, award-winning author of Grand Menteur — a novel about Mauritian street gangs—, has returned with something new: a collection of short pieces titled In the Beggarly Style of Imitation. Now a novelist and short story writer, Ah-Sen has proved what a multi-faced creator he is. He is currently working on another novel “just to make sure the first one wasn’t a fluke,” he says (Ah-Sen, “The Jean Marc Ah-Sen Interview”). 

Dominoes at the Crossroads by Kaie Kellough

“We live as we dream – alone. While the dream disappears, the life continues painfully.” — Joseph Conrad

like to quote Conrad when I can; I find his prose very insightful into the human condition. This singular quote came to me after finishing Kaie Kellough’s Dominoes at the Crossroads just before turning off the light at bedtime. I assumed there must be a neuronal link in there somewhere.…