DEAD FLOWERS by Alexander Laidlaw


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Over the course of eight short stories, characters have their young lives disrupted by curious and uncanny encounters.

After she moves across the country to be with her boyfriend, a young college student’s life is increasingly unsettled by her unpredictable roommates (“On Gordon Head”). As he ages, a man continues to recount his discovery of a murder victim and yet is never quite sure how to interpret his experience (“One Time I Witnessed A Murder”). A young father’s collegial workplace environment devolves when a new manager is hired (“War Story”). Laidlaw’s collection skillfully positions primarily 20-something characters in proximity to moments of strangeness, such as dead bodies, cars that may have disappeared into bodies of water, and car accidents, and asks how these moments are either incorporated into a sense of self or dismissed as inexplicable. As one character notes: “Really, most of my time I spend just trying to make sense of our existence. Because as far as I can tell, ours is an existence wherein not much of consequence happens…I think that in fact we spend so much of our lives waiting for something to happen, that we begin to forget we are waiting.” Set in various Canadian provinces, these stories align well within the genre of Canadian literature interested in identity. The narrative tone of the stories varies from serious but bewildered to wry and amused, and yet each main character is attempting to determine a narrative and direction for their life that transcends the day-to-day monotony of being young, broke, and in unstable living situations. Any sense of resolution is temporary at best and somehow all the more gratifying because of its precariousness.

Enigmatic ideas craftily underlie a direct style.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-88971-355-0
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Nightwood Editions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2019


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