I’m very late posting this. Give me slap on the wrist, please, because I ate up this collection on VICTORIA DAY when real, honest-to-god sunshine was just starting to exist again. I didn’t know how badly I needed that warmer weather until it was halfway through the weekend. My whole body finally relaxed, coaxed into a slothy laziness I hadn’t experienced in a long long time. Thankfully, the summer has been an ongoing stretch of lovely weather, but at the time I really needed that reminder of summer simplicity: a camp fire, a barbecue, a patio, Peterborough and cottage country (aka: home). I got all of that on Victoria Day weekend, and just happened to be carrying Andrew Forbes’ new short story collection from Invisible Publishing along for the day. What You Need was the perfect compliment for this kind of beachy weekend, though it’s much more of a layered, visceral “anti-beach read” meant to make you stop and let it all sink in.
Andrew Forbes‘ debut collection begins like you’ve just asked the quiet guy in the corner to tell you a story, and he does, without fanfare or flourish, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. He just let’s the words unfold, and it’s somehow the most interesting thing you’ve heard all week. Forbes is a quiet, humble dude in the corner, and his thoughtful stories seem to flow effortlessly from him (this is also probably a solid nod to Invisible’s excellent editorial team). These stories are well worth hearing.
I need miniature heartbreaks and little bursts of high school nostalgia (I Was A Willow). I need bold reminders of my small town (Jamboree). I also need (love and appreciate) more stories that don’t assume I’m a total moron who won’t “get it” if the moral of the story isn’t flashing in front of me in neon lights. And – cue publishing geek-out moment – I need more beautiful little books from Invisible, whose style and substance never let me down. Honestly, Leigh, if you wanna send me your front and backlist, I’d happily dedicate a whole shelf to those beauties.
Heather O’Neill is the perfect weirdo. She’s just the right mix of offbeat that makes you want to be her best friend, but it kind of scares you a bit too. Her imagination has the ability to be simultaneously quirky, tragic, surreal, and mysterious, while maintaining a precise control of her storylines. Heather O’Neill, author of the award magnets: Lullabies for Little Criminals and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night demonstrates this ability in her newcollection of short stories, Daydreams of Angels.
At first Daydreams of Angels sounds saccharine and a little cliche for a title, but since it’s Heather O’Neill, you know she’s going to underscore that whimsy with those sharp little jabs of tragedy and realness we’ve come to expect. Her novels tend to go for the sucker punch to the feels, but this collection of (fairy) tales stays put on the whimsical side of things than the narratives that befell Nouschka or Baby in their own stories. While her novels featured Magic Pixie Dream characters caught up in the real world, the contents of Daydreams of Angels are straight up fables for adults where everything is extraordinary.
What was Jesus like as an elementary school student, as told by an 11-year-old Mary Magdalene? How does the protagonist of a child’s story feel when that story is left unfinished? How about the history of a small town inhabited by clones? Somehow the stories read as both classic and contemporary, incorporating tufts of inspiration from just about everywhere. They are like stories you would want tell over a bonfire when you’re feeling warm and filled with wine. They’re perfect in a setting when you can forget reality or expectation and just enjoy the ride. You may not remember what you read the next day, but you’ll remember the experience fondly.
Small and independent presses are real treasure troves for great stories that you won’t necessarily see splashed across ad banners and subway stations but they. are. so. good. As much as I love seeing lists like this one pop up, there are so many indie titles that I would have LOVED to discuss with my friends over guacamole and wine (and, in some cases, probably would have helped me cope with my feeling afterwards)! So I’ve decided to make up my own lists, starting today, to spread the book club love around, even though my “book club” is basically just me reading with my cat in the room. (thanks for the inspo Buzzfeed!)
Full disclosure! Some of the books I pick will be from the company I work for, BUT were published before I got here, so I’m calling it a fair loophole.
In Da Club (Part I)
- Wet, Hot, and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex by Kaleigh Trace (Invisible Publishing)
Who doesn’t want to talk about sex? But, like, in a funny, positive, honest way with no “grey” in sight.
- Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis (Coach House Books)
If you’ve ever owned and/or loved a pet, this is a must-read.
- Every Little Thing by Chad Pelley (Breakwater Books)
Prepare to yell “What the hell happened to Cohen??” over and over in this love story + mystery.
- Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth (Cormorant Books)
Dive into the Spanish Civil War alongside a killer young heroine you can really root for.
- Enter, Night by Michael Rowe (Chizine Publications)
If you’re going to read a vampire book, make it a really good vampire book!
- Infidelity by Stacey May Fowles (ECW Press)
Cheaters are supposed to be bad people, right? Not exactly. Let’s discuss!
- The Indifference League by Richard Scarsbrook (Dundurn)
Light, fun, and truly super.
- Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Lynn Crosbie (House of Anansi)
Read this and then tell me you don’t want to devour this book right now.