by Alexandra Leggat

Anvil Press 2009, Paperback
Third collection

Alexandra Leggat  is the author of two previous collections of short fiction, Pull Gently, Tear Here and Meet Me in the Parking Lot, as well as a volume of poetry. A freelance writer and editor, she also teaches creative writing classes and conducts writing workshops. She currently lives in Toronto.

Read an interview with Alexandra Leggat

" In school I learned that most predators, dogs, wolves, raptors, rapists, perceived eye contact as a threat. All I knew was the doctor shouldn’t take it personally because my aunt wouldn’t look at the mailman, the milkman or the handsome plumber either. I remember Heathrow’s dad was large and yelled a lot but I was young when he was shackled and dragged away…"

Reviewed by Daniela I. Norris

In her third collection of short fiction, Alexandra Legatt presents fourteen tales that carry a message of inevitability. In Mandible (from Latin mandibula, "jawbone"), which I read three times to try and get all that is cleverly disguised between the lines, we meet an ex-champion fisherman who regrets having killed so many fish in his life. 

"He couldn't stand the thought of staring into the eyes of another desperate fish. 'No more,' he yelled, 'No fucking more.' He dove into the water and swam to shore. His coach reeled in the twenty-pound pike. Its rubbery eyes gleamed in the rising sunlight. Henry kept walking, walked until his feet ached and the sun burned the top of his pounding skull. On his way to the couch, the fridge, when he gazes at his trophies, he has no clue what happened to the man who won them." 

In Over Dinner we are served a lot to think about, in just under two pages. The following paragraph lingered in my mind long after I'd read it: 

"My mother recalls a television show about Native hockey players, a particular boy's struggle. He couldn't hack the injustice at hockey camp, went AWOL, hopped the bus home and entered the kitchen. At the stove, this mother wouldn't turn around. Her son's footsteps gave away more than they should have. His mother's back, the coldest reception. The brick wall he'd keep on running into. Anything worth having is surrounded by obstacles." 

Legatt has the talent of capturing the story of a life in few words, leaving the reader with a feeling they have just witnessed something spectacular. Sports are a reoccurring theme in the book – the author is obviously a hockey and football fan. The inner struggle of achievers is another reoccurring theme. The characters in her tales have all achieved something important to them – however minor this achievement may seem to others. This achievement has put them in a new phase of their lives. Letting go – of bad memories, of good ones, of fear of failure – even of life itself – transports Leggat's protagonists into a moment of quivering balance which she manages to capture with surprising impact. 

For some reason, the first story in the collection – Wide - sensitive and sad as it may be, did not do it for me. But do not despair, do carry on beyond it – you will be rewarded by the fantastic second (Apples and Rum) and the brief and brilliant third, which lends its name to the entire collection - Animal

"My brother Cyril calls me from JFK. Moments away from moving to San Francisco he wants to make contact. He always calls when he is on his way somewhere, which he states immediately so he has a reason to abort the conversation if it's not going his way."

Leggat's insight into what makes people tick is enviable. The last story in the collection, titled Colt 45, is about a woman who dreams she is playing professional football – at night she is a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts. These dreams leave her physically aching in the mornings, her boyfriend insanely jealous of the muscular athletes populating her dreams, and the reader wishing the book would last longer than its 169 pages of thought-provoking, immensely enjoyable short fiction.

Read the title story from
this collection in

Daniela I. Norris
is a former diplomat, turned writer. The author of numerous short stories, articles and two books due out in early 2010, she is currently working on a series of political thrillers set at the United Nations in Geneva.She is Contributing Editor with the Geneva Times and book reviewer on World Radio Switzerland's Bookmark program .

Daniela's other Short Reviews: Lynne Patrick (ed) "Criminal Tendencies"

Dede Crane "The Cult of Quick Repair"
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The Publisher's Website: Anvil Press


The Author's Recommended Bookseller: McNally Robinson


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If you liked this book you might also like....

Dede Crane  "The Cult of Quick Repair"

Gina Oschner "People I Wanted to Be"

The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel 

What other reviewers thought:

The Globe and Mail

The New Can Lit