The Saturday Afternoon Book Club: September 2012

Sadly, August days are waning and our interns are leaving us :( It is so amazing having them at work as they bring a fresh energy to the office every day! One day, I asked Erin Morawetz to take a look at review copies of books that had landed on my desk, including Signs and Wonders (House of Anansi Press, 2012).

Do you like short stories with a bit of an edge? Check out Alix Ohlin’s new collection.

The thing about Erin is that if she likes something, she lets you know it. And so when she got back to me and said, “ I love short stories and I love this book – I couldn’t stop reading it!” I knew she was telling the truth.

So I asked her write a guest column, and she happily obliged. Here, Erin’s take on Alix’s book:

Having just completed my fifth consecutive year in post-secondary school, the first of my Masters, it’s been a while since I’ve had a “reading assignment” that I enjoyed.

When I was asked to look at a pile of new releases and pick one to recommend for this month’s Book Club, not only did I enjoy a reading assignment for the first time in years, but I spent my week turning down social plans, turning off the TV, and turning page after page of Alix Ohlin’s new compilation of short stories, Signs and Wonders.

For anyone out there who thinks you can’t get as engrossed in a collection of stories as in a novel, where you follow the same characters from beginning to end, think again – or better yet, see for yourself.

Signs and Wonders includes 16 shorts, some as few as 12 pages. But each story invokes emotion and suspense, and introduces characters who are real and flawed – and so relatable. So much so, in fact, that when the story ends, you’re almost left in a lurch, wondering what happens next to these characters, this story, that I now feel so invested in? 

In one story, we meet a young couple in love, desperate for a child. When they realize they’re unable to conceive, you’ll be shocked at the lengths the woman will go to for a family.

In another, we meet two women, wearing the same jacket, with the same hairdo, sitting in the same park… and we’re told that by the end of the story, a gun, carried by a man on his way to the park, will be fired.

And my personal favourite, the heartbreaking story of a father coming to grips with the loss of his daughter, brain-dead and in a coma.

Ohlin is the author of several novels (The Missing Person, Babylon and Other Stories, Inside), and you can tell, for she weaves a consistent voice through the collection. But the stories themselves are each unique, and I would argue, spellbinding. It’s a quick read – just over 250 pages – but you’ve been warned, once you pick it up, you’ll be hard-pressed to put it down. 

Leave us a comment and you could win one of 10 copies of Signs and Wonders.