MacLeod, who was born in Montreal and lives in Britain, merges fact and fiction in her new collection of short stories, her first book to be published in the U.S. since her debut novel, The Changeling (1996).
Wide-ranging and haunting, this collection seamlessly blends memoir, biography, and imagination to create narratives that explore the edges of reality and the ghosts that exist there. Death looms large, either as a threat or a perspective through which the characters view the nature of time. The opening story, “The Thaw,” outlines the final day of a young Canadian woman’s life and the legacy of grief she becomes part of when she dies unexpectedly. In "Sylvia Wears Pink in the Underworld" and “Dreaming Diana: Twelve Frames,” the losses of celebrities are examined through the lens of the author's own connection to Sylvia Plath and Princess Diana, two women turned into public spectacles and pop-culture icons. The title story, about Angelica Garnett, and “Oscillate Wildly” are moving looks back at lives near their end, while “The Heart of Denis Noble” melds science and passion as a man receives a new heart. Two of the collection’s standout stories are “There are precious things” and “In Praise of Radical Fish.” The former is a character study of the passengers on an Underground train, all of whom connect and react to one another over the course of a brief ride that highlights the humanity in a crowd. The latter is a funny and tense look at three would-be jihadis on a day at Brighton, where their fears and doubts about an upcoming mission come to the surface. All these stories are written in striking prose that seamlessly blends the real with the fictive, tapping into the unknown with compassion and genuine human emotion.
A uniquely cohesive collection of short examinations of aging, death, and living, these stories are subtly moving and thoroughly engaging.