A dozen taut and mysterious tales by Canadian poet and novelist Gaston (The Good Body, 2001) explore powerful addictions, cravings and desires.
Many of the stories have narrators who are unreliable because they are high: on beer in “Driving Under the Influence,” about a newly jilted fellow who cruises repeatedly through a police roadblock between fill-ups at bars, his eye on the female cop; on heroin in “The Little Drug Addict That Could,” about a beer-drinker who tries to help his nephew kick his habit and ends up “chipping” in the men’s room of a local bar (“nursing on Eve,” as his nephew puts it); on whiskey in “The Angels’ Share,” about a woman, “humbled by many kinds of hunger,” who comes out of the wilderness and joins a group drinking around a campfire; on a lifetime of connoisseurship in the case of Van Luven, of “The Alcoholist,” who is trying to create one last distinctive blond beer before dying of cirrhosis. Gaston is so skillful that he draws you along on the ride, following each narrator’s convincing storyline while allowing you simultaneously to sense the distortion of the drug. “Where It Comes From, Where It Goes” involves a different kind of altered state as a faith healer recollects the onset of his gift—he saved his daughter from leukemia—and also discovers that people have been stealing from his voluntary contribution box. “A Forest Path” is narrated by the bastard son of the notorious drinker/author Malcolm Lowry, who tracks the antics of his mother, an “eccentric and literary lush.” The title piece is a masterpiece of rationalization, the story of a father who medicates his troubled 12-year-old daughter on cannabis. It’s told in a series of letters to the authorities who have removed her from his custody after neighbors turned him in as a drug-dealer and abusive father.
Intriguing short fiction, told in a distinctive, poetic prose.