In her third collection of short stories, Canadian author Lisa Moore takes you to familiar places—the shoe store, an insurance office, a night class—and introduces you to some regular people.
There's a librarian, a caretaker, a wifey-wife. But unexpected events, memorable characters, and a reverence for struggling make this collection anything but ordinary.
In one story, a portfolio manager runs into an old flame and is rattled by the intensity of it. In a lighter story, a rock star jumps overboard from a cruise ship in the Arctic and is being investigated by an insurance PI who is "rocking the contestable death claims." The PI and rock star, like many of the characters, stay with you long after the story ends.
It's Moore's voice. Her dialogue is authentic and rich in subtext. See how the mundanity of a marriage is defined in this exchange: "You should get that windshield wiper fixed. I will. Don't go on the highway with it like that. I won't. Stop at Canadian Tire. I will. Did you stop at Canadian Tire? No. You drove like that? Yes, I did."
Fresh and spot-on images are little treasures along the way, and a single image can be powerful enough to flesh out a scene or character. Many of the stories deal with loss, where past and present mingle on the page without page breaks, or even periods. Much like it does in our minds where things are connected in a spaghetti-like mess.
A permeating power of grief is reminiscent of Moore's novel February, winner of Canada Reads. And although we feel empathy for the heartbroken and rage for the exploited, some endings tie up with a string of hope. Plus, Moore can maintain a humorous tone without diminishing the dignity of her characters.
Everything I love about Moore's writing is found in my favourite story, "A Beautiful Flare." Steve, who has spent 22 years commuting to Fort Mac, is selling shoes at a mall. It's sad, except that he's really good at it. Good for him! It's a funny story.
You're laughing along. But then, in one long, beautiful rant, we learn about the imposed change on his commute, about the bawling of the moose he'd hit, "pitched so low and baleful," about his one-man protest in a Santa suit. How he "might as well sell the shit out of some shoes." Sucker-punched.
"Do you feel it?" That's the first line in the collection. It's just Steve fitting shoes, but apt just the same.
Moore is one of three 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize nominees featured at the Whistler Writers Festival, running from October 18 to 21. Moore will be participating in a panel with moderator Ali Hassan at the Sunday brunch on Oct. 14 at 11 a.m. at the Whistler Writers Festival. Tickets are available at whistlerwritersfest.com.
Karen McLeod is a local writer of one-act plays, short stories and book reviews.