Thursday, January 31, 2013

BOOK: Whirl Away by Russell Wagnersky

Whirl Away by Russell Wagnersky, 207 pages

Canadian Book Challenge

Whirl Away was shortlisted for the 2012 Giller Prize, a well deserved recognition for it. We (Canadians, not me personally) seem to be prolific in short story writing. I'm thinking of Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant who almost exclusively write short stories. One of the best books I read in 2011 was a Giller nominated Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod, son of Alistair, another short story writer, Lost Salt Gift of Blood.

The stories had overall sad characters, characters at a crossroads in their life, where nothing is quite what it seems. Many of the stories had a surprise or shock at the end for the reader, or the character. Divorce, death, accidents, each story was a slice of life. One man who gets obsessed with the accidents that occur at the "Sharp Corner" in front of his house. "Bolt" shows us that no one ever really knows someone, as a woman finds out after her partner is killed in a car accident. Life for a young family at an isolated light house is described by the father, in "Look Away", but it may not be what it seems. Most of the stories are set in Newfoundland, city and outport. "Little World" was a sad tour of a small village by a lonely woman. I'm making these stories sound depressing, and they were, but in a well written, identifiable way. It's life, eh.

Bolt - guy gets killed by random bolt that breaks
Echo - little kid in the middle of a violent family crisis
McNally's Fair - caretaker for many years [heh, this has my maiden name in the title]
911 - rogue ambulance driver heads out on on a call on his own
Family Law - lawyer, with mistress, researches adultery
Little World - woman tours police around deserted village
No Harm, No Foul - travelling salesman picks up a hitchhiker
Look Away - light house keeper, and his family
Sharp Corner - guy gets obsessed with accidents, and their retelling
Open Arms - lawyer story again from very different perspective
The Gasper - guy has panic attacks and repeatedly calls ambulance
I Like - elevator inspector's marriage drifts apart

A wonderful, well-written review by Buried in Print can be found here. In fact, her review is as amazing as this book.