by Carol Reid
collection begins and ends with very different but equally powerful
stories. The first, I
Like to Look, contains themes reminiscent of Classical
Greek mythology and artifacts as superficial and contemporary as shiny
red cars. This portentous opening paragraph immediately captured my
hadn't seen or heard of her for fifteen years. No one had. We sat in
the garden, spaced equally around the circular table; she to my right
and Bill, the man who brought her, to the left; in the middle a jug of
lemonade. Their big red car gleamed in the drive. I wouldn't let them
inside the house."
unnamed narrator endures the return of her adventurous and
globetrotting twin, Dee, who has brought with her to the old family
home her lover, Bill. He is a filmmaker who intends to shoot footage of
the place for a documentary about Dee's odyssey through life. This
horrifies the narrator, who has stayed at home, first caring for their
mother and now for their Idiot Brother. Somehow, her lack of an outside
life has given her a terrible power, which she has never dared use.
Now, faced with losing the only things that have remained hers alone
and yearning to catch and hold her sister to her, she finally allows
herself to use her power. This is a chilling and oddly moving
final and eponymous story,
As in Music, also presents a situation
involving a mother and daughter, but here the main character runs away
en route to visit her dying mother. The title seems to refer to the
"rest", the space between bars of written music in which absence or
silence is an active event. This is my favorite of the collection,
perhaps because it offers some possibility of simple affection between
the protagonist, Ruby, and the old farmer in whose house Ruby takes
shelter. The earth in this story may still be fertile and arable, where
in the other stories it tends to be stony, blasted and barren.
Of Romance is a
sparse, fragmented story of the various ways, frank and
deceptive, in which people gather and struggle against sexual
experience. Romance, in this story, seems to mean a sort of
inveiglement which is wholly undesirable.
Lambing is a bleak,
beautifully written winter's tale of deprivation,
and the ways in which survival depends not only on the fittest but the
weakest of the flock. This is an unflinching and harrowing depiction of
the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children and
Man Page again focuses on a parent-child relationship,
here between a young mother and her profoundly handicapped infant son.
The way in which the young woman speaks to her unresponsive child is
almost unbearably poignant, especially in counterpoint to the
conversations she has with her self-absorbed neighbors, who are trying
desperately to become parents themselves. This story is the precursor
to Page's 1990 novel, Frankie
Styne and the Silver Man, which is now
available in a new Canadian edition.
barren emotional and physical landscape is the background for all the
stories in this collection. So much has been lost to Page's characters
and opportunities for solace and any kind of redemption are few and far
between. There is a pervasive post apocalyptic atmosphere, but the
details of the event are never made clear. In its wake, humanity has
turned in on itself and broken its collective heart into
are moments of dark and absurd humor in some of the stories. In
for Geese the protagonist achieves fleeting fame by
sparrows into feeding out of his hand but is outdone by an interloper
who attracts pigeons with cornflakes. Tragicomedy ensues.
placement of As in Music
as the final story in the collection was a
wise choice, I think. Page leaves us in a landscape a little less
bleak, where, "a huge and beautiful silence seemed to gather…" at the
close of this unusual and haunting collection.
Read one of the stories
from this collection on Kathy
Reid has recently completed a collection of thirteen stories set on the
coast of British Columbia. She is an assistant fiction editor of Sotto
Publisher: Phoenix Books
June 2008, Canadian Edition (First published 1990, by Methuen London,
Page has written six novels and is also an accomplished
writer of short fiction. Her story, The Second Spring After
Liberation, won the 1994 Bridport Prize. Her most recent
was nominated for the Governor-General's Award in 2005. She has taught
writing in Estonia, Finland, the U.K and Canada and now lives on Salt
Spring Island (Canada) with her family.
with Kathy Page
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